The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case challenging Mississippi’s HB1523, the nation’s most heinous anti-LGBTQ ‘religious freedom’ law, which took effect in October.
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) January 8, 2018
The justices did not comment Monday in their decision to leave in place a federal appeals court ruling that allowed the law to take effect. A three-judge panel held that the law’s challengers failed to show they would be harmed by it. The appellate judges did not rule on the law’s substance.
HB 1523 allows officials and healthcare providers in the state to discriminate freely against LGBTQ individuals due to their own “moral” or religious objections, such as turning away same-sex couples who seek marriage licenses or declining hormone therapy to transgender patients.
The bill, the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Bryant in 2016, has been on hold from a ruling by federal District Judge Carlton Reeves that it unconstitutionally privileges people who hold three particular religious beliefs, in violation of the First Amendment.
A three-judge panel of the appellate court had ruled the plaintiffs, Campaign for Southern Equality, lacked standing to bring the challenge. The full court declined to rehear the case.
House Bill 1523 will allow anyone from doctors to store owners to deny service for LGBT people based on individual religious beliefs.
Critics of the law call it the nation’s most sweeping anti-LGBT law, while supporters say it protects their faith based convictions. Those in opposition said they’re contemplating their next legal step in the coming days.
The legislation passed in the Mississippi General Assembly last year, and was signed by Governor Phil Bryant, but faced legal challenges since had yet to take effect. That’s expected to change this week after a three-judge panel ruled the plaintiffs who sued in opposition to HB 1523 didn’t have the standing challenge the law.
HB 1523 will protect three types of religious beliefs as justification to deny service to LGBT individuals in Mississippi including the conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Said Governor Phil Bryant in a statement released Sunday:
“As I have said from the beginning, this law was democratically enacted and is perfectly constitutional. The people of Mississippi have the right to ensure that all of our citizens are free to peacefully live and work without fear of being punished for their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
While the governor has championed HB 1523, the state’s attorney general Jim Hood has said the public had been “duped” to win support for the law. Celebrities such as Belinda Carlisle and Sharon Stone have spoken out against the bill while canceling planned visits to the state. Lambda Legal has called the law “one of the most aggressive and sweeping anti-LGBT measures in the nation.”