Federal court rules MS businesses can discriminate against LGBTQ people

A federal appeals court said Thursday that MS can start enforcing a law that allows merchants and government employees to cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples, but opponents of the law immediately pledged to appeal.

Mississippi's Republican leadership praised Thursday's ruling by a three-judge panel of the United States' 5th Circuit Court of Appeals re-instating the state's controversial 2016 legislation that opponents said would lead to discrimination against gays and other groups on religious grounds.

The panel said the plaintiffs, who included ordained ministers who have married same-sex couples and same-sex couples seeking to marry, did not have standing to bring the lawsuit.

Thigpen said, "The court called the legal challenge to HB 1523 'quite radical, ' affirming that the plaintiffs have not suffered any injury from a law whose primary aim is to protect people from government discrimination".

Sommer, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said they would likely seek further judicial review, either before the full Fifth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Hopefully, our efforts to seek further review will prevent it from going into effect in the future", he said.

"It's far-reaching; it's more than just marriage", said Batts. Last year, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves of Jackson concluded that HB 1523 does not, despite its name, honor the nation's tradition of religious freedom.

The multiple people challenging the ruling have several options, including trying to prove the law caused injury to a person or appealing the ruling.

Supporters say the law protects Mississippians' rights to live out their faith.

Known as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, the law effectively gives license to anyone to discriminate against LGBTI people including organizations and businesses based on "sincerely held" religious or moral beliefs.

"This decision is not only deeply upsetting for the rights of LGBT individuals living in MS, but also for the protection of religious liberty in our country", said Roberta Kaplan, the out attorney serving as lead counsel on the case filed by Campaign for Southern Equality in Thursday's statement.

"The ACLU of MS will continue to advocate for equal protection for our plaintiffs and the LGBT community in Mississippi".

"Freedom of religion is one of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans, but that freedom does not give any of us the right to harm or mistreat others", Jennifer Riley Collins, executive director of the ACLU of MS, said in a statement. We stand ready to defend those who are harmed by any confrontations as a result of this ruling.

"The state communicated a message loudly and clearly with the passage of HB 1523: Only certain anti-LGBT beliefs will get the protection and endorsement of the state", Kaplan said.

Kevin Theriot (TAIR-ee-oh) is an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based Christian group that helped to write the MS law. The Fifth Circuit's decision was based exclusively on the idea that the original plaintiffs could not argue they had been injured by a law that had not taken effect.

  • Joanne Flowers