U.S. judge rules that controversial Mississippi law violates First and Fourteenth Amendment
Law would've gone into effect July 1, is now blocked
A federal judge blocked a controversial Mississippi law that would’ve gone into effect Friday, which would’ve allowed businesses and government employees to deny services to gay and transgender people based on religious grounds.
U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves issued a 60-page opinion in which he described the Mississippi law, known as House Bill 1523, as “state-sanctioned discrimination.”
“There are almost endless explanations for how HB 1523 condones discrimination against the LGBT community, but in its simplest terms it denies LGBT citizens equal protection under the law,” he wrote.
He cited many reasons in his opinion. The law would create a separate system “designed to diminish the rights of LGBT citizens” thus violating the equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. He also wrote that it gave an official preference for certain religious beliefs over others violating the First Amendment.
The plaintiffs who sued the state over the new law reflected a broad cross section of religious officials, LGBT advocates and other Mississippi residents, who argued that HB 1523 violated their constitutional rights.
Reeves ruled in their favor, writing that “the bill creates a statewide two-tiered system that elevates heterosexual citizens and demeans LGBT citizens.” He granted a preliminary injunction Thursday night.
What the law would’ve permitted
In a nutshell, HB 1523 would have shielded private businesses and some public-sector employees from legal action and discipline if they refused a customer on the grounds that doing so would violate a “sincerely held religious belief.”
The Mississippi law, called the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, had been passed directly as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 same-sex marriage ruling. It was one of many similar measures enacted in the United States in the year following that landmark decision.