Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Controversial Mississippi anti-LGBT religious law blocked by Judge

House Bill 1523, a 2016 Mississippi law protecting the beliefs that, (i) a marriage is a union between a man and a woman, (ii) sexual relationships are reserved to only such a union, and (iii) man or woman refer to an individual's permanent biological sex as determined at the time of birth, was blocked last Thursday, June 30, by the United States District Court Judge, Carlton Reeves, citing that the bill violates the First Amendment by favoring some religious beliefs over others, and that it could be used by individuals, institutions, and businesses to discriminate against the LGBT people. The bill was supposed to come into effect from July 1st.

If the house bill had come into effect, it would have protected the religious objections to extramarital sex, gay marriages, and transgender identities. It would have enabled the people who do not approve the LGBT community to deny them medical or business services, to fire them from employment without any valid reason, to deny them adoption and foster care services, to decline from renting or selling properties to them, and so on. It would have also enabled the state employees to deny marriage licenses to gay couples, based on religious objections.

According to Judge Reeves, bill 1523 does not honor the nation's tradition of religious freedom, the building block of America. It was the guarantee of equal protection under the law that was used to mend the nation back together after it was torn apart. The bill does not respect the equal dignity of all the residents of Mississippi either. The bill says that it helps to advance the interest of the state, however, the bill would only act as state-sanctioned discrimination medium against the LGBT community. He further stated that most of the religious protections offered in the bill are already present in the First Amendment and Mississippi's own Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Jenifer Branning, the Republican member of the Mississippi State Senate who sponsored the bill, stated in the wake of the bill being stuck down that, the intention of the bill was only to protect the religious liberties of everyone in the state. She said that the overturned bill would be appealed to the Fifth Circuit.

Governor Phil Bryant, a supporter of the bill, said that he is looking forward to an aggressive appeal.

General Jim Hood, State's attorney tasked with defending the bill, has from the time the bill was introduced maintained the position that the bill did not accomplish anything. According to him, the litigation costs that the bill presents is just a waste of taxpayer money. He is just doing his job by defending it. However, only after thinking hard about the cost of appeal and the state's current budget crisis would he decide about the appeal. Hood also said that the politicians are duping the churchgoing public with the house bill 1523 by making them believe that it would protect their religious freedoms.

The LGBT rights advocates hailed the decision to block the bill as a major victory.

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