Ministers Latest to Challenge Mississippi ‘Religious Freedom’ Law

HB 1523, the “religious freedom” law that has recently been enacted in Mississippi, amounts to affording special rights to religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage, Beth Orlansky, advocacy director for the Mississippi Center for Justice alleged in a statement.

Local religious leaders of the state have become the latest to file a lawsuit against the law, which is seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination as well as violating the separation of church and state, according to Washington Blade

The plaintiffs of the lawsuit include Mississippi ministers, community leaders, civic activists and a Hattiesburg church, according to the Clarion-Ledger. They are asking the federal court to issue an injunction blocking the bill from taking effect July 1.

“Ensuring that government maintains neutrality on religious beliefs and respects religious diversity is part of our commitment to Mississippi as a social justice state,” Orlansky said. “Granting special protections to one set of religious views would allow legalized discrimination to put at risk decades of progress to secure full rights for all Mississippians.”

The law prohibits the state from taking any action against religious organizations that deny employment, housing and other services to same-sex couples. The bill also protects organizations that deny wedding services to same-sex couples, as well as medical services that decline to afford a transgender person reassignment surgery.

State government employees who facilitate marriages may also opt out of issuing same-se marriage licenses through the law, though the state worker must issue prior notice to the state government and a clerk’s office must not delay in the issuing of licenses.

Taylor, a gay resident of Harrison County, Miss, who is engaged to marry his partner this summer, said in a statement the law relegates him to second-class citizenship.

“As a lifelong Mississippian, a US Navy Veteran, and a civil rights advocate, I must step up to challenge this law that would relegate me and others in the LGBT community to an inferior status,” Taylor said. “My faith and my commitment to my partner must not be devalued by this unjust law.”

“By targeting same-sex couples  who are married or may marry in the future, unmarried couples who engage in sexual relations, and transgender people, and by endorsing the religious views and moral convictions that condemn those targeted groups, H.B. 1523 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment,” the lawsuit says.

A spokesperson for Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, did not have an immediate comment in response to the lawsuit.

“We are reviewing the lawsuit, and we will file our response at the appropriate time,” said Aaron Sadler, a Hood spokesperson.


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