A federal court appeals court says Mississippi can start enforcing a law that will let merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a judge's decision that had originally blocked the law from happening.
Governor Phil Bryant made the following statement on the ruling:
"I am pleased the Fifth Circuit has ruled to dismiss the case and allow House Bill 1523 to become law. As I have said all along, the legislation is not meant to discriminate against anyone, but simply prevents government interference with the constitutional right to exercise sincerely held religious beliefs."
Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves made the following statement:
“House Bill 1523 simply protected Mississippians from government interference when practicing their deeply held religious beliefs, and I appreciate the Fifth Circuit clearing the path for this law to take effect,”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has overturned the preliminary injunction in the lawsuit, Barber v. Bryant, that had previously stopped House Bill 1523 from taking effect.
House Bill 1523 allows freedom of religion to cover prejudice and to justify discrimination against LGBT Mississippians and single parents.
The ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer Riley Collins made the following statement:
We are disappointed that the appeals court has reversed the preliminary injunction placed on HB 1523 and dismissed the case. This decision places the plaintiffs and thousands more LGBT Mississippians and single parents in a position where they can actually be harmed for living as their authentic selves. This broad license to discriminate includes provisions that would seek to allow state employees to withhold marriage licenses from same-sex couples.
We are ready to move forward with our case filed on behalf of ACLU members Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas, who are planning to marry in Mississippi in the near future. That case was put on hold until the court of appeals ruled. We will continue to proceed on behalf of Nykolas and Stephen to protect them, and other same-sex couples from this harmful and discriminatory law.
Freedom of religion is one of the most fundamental rights as Americans, but that freedom does not give any of us the right to harm or mistreat others.
The ACLU of Mississippi will continue to advocate for equal protection for our plaintiffs and the LGBT community in Mississippi. We stand ready to defend those who are harmed by any confrontations as a result of this ruling.
We urge the community to contact us if they or someone they know experiences any discrimination.