Supreme Court refuses to hear challenge to MS anti-gay law


The U.S. Supreme Court won't take up legal challenges to a MS "religious freedom" law enabling sweeping discrimination against LGBT people, leaving extremely limited recourse to combat the anti-LGBT statute.

The law - called the "Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Law"- allows any person employed by the state government who has the authority to license marriages to seek recusal from licensing a same-sex marriage.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs are emphasizing the procedural nature of the court's decision, and reiterated their intent to challenge the constitutionality of the law.

A trial court judge previously ruled the law unconstitutional on the grounds that it circumvented the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell and privileged certain religious beliefs above others.

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In addition to Lambda Legal, the plaintiffs in Barber v. Bryant are represented by the Mississippi Center for Justic, and attorney Robert McDuff, with Paul Smith and former U.S. Solicitor General Don Verrilli joining in the Supreme Court appeal.

Opponents to the bill first appealed to the Supreme Court soon before it became law. "While freedom of religion is a fundamental right, it should never give people the right to impose their belief on others and openly discriminate against others in the name of religious exemptions".

HB 1523 will protect three types of religious beliefs as justification to deny service to LGBT individuals in MS including the conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman. It's the most extreme religious freedom law in the US. The full court refused to review that decision in an "en banc" review.

The Supreme Court's decision not to intervene in the Missouri case could signal how it will rule in the case brought by Jack Phillips' Masterpiece Cakeshop, which was fined by Colorado for declining to provide a same-sex wedding cake.

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Regarding the high court's refusal, social liberals like Freedom for All Americans CEO Masen Davis denounced the decision, arguing that this "means that LGBTQ Mississippians will continue to face harassment and discrimination".

House Bill 1523 will allow anyone from doctors to store owners to deny service for LGBT people based on individual religious beliefs. The plaintiff in that case, Jameka Evans, sued her former employer, claiming that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBT employees.

Robert Tuttle, a law professor at George Washington University, said the cases are different.

"Those who haven't been and won't be harmed by this law shouldn't be allowed to restrict freedom for others by ensuring dissenters are left open to the government discrimination that has already occurred in states without protective laws like this one", Theriot explained. Similarly, he said a couple seeking a marriage license is not harmed if one worker in the clerk's office passes the duty to another, as happened several years ago in Kentucky.

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