Earlier this month, Mississippi enacted HB 1523, a sweeping anti-LGBT law that made it legal for individuals, businesses and government officials to deny any service to any person they suspecting of being queer or of having sex outside of marriage. (Yes, really.) A federal judge overruled an earlier U.S. District Court decision blocking Mississippi’s anti-LGBT law from going into effect, but now that district court judge has created the opening for second legal challenge that could help kill the law, if successful.
First, some background …
Background on Mississippi’s anti-LGBT law
On April 5, 2016, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed HB 1523 into law, a law which prevent lawsuits against anyone who discriminates on the basis of “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” opposing same-sex marriage, transgender identity or premarital sex. The law basically allows workers of all sorts — including pharmacists, doctors, therapists and taxpayer-funded social service workers — to refuse service to LGBTQ people and those suspected of having had premarital sex.
Then, on July 1, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves blocked the law from going into effect on the basis that it “violates both the [U.S. Constitution’s] guarantee of religious neutrality and the promise of equal protection of the laws” by granting privileges to people who hold certain religious beliefs.
However, on June 22, 2017, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Reeve’s decision, making the law go immediately into effect. The Appeals Court basically said that no one had any standing to oppose HB 1523 in court because no one had been provably harmed by it yet. The law went into effect October of this year.
However, the most recent ruling gave Judge Reeves a new way to challenge the law, by reopening an old case.
The new possible challenge to Mississippi’s anti-LGBT law
Basically, in 2014, a gay rights group called Campaign for Southern Equality filed a lawsuit against Mississippi for failing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (The state had a same-sex marriage ban at the time.) Reeves closed the case in 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide in June.
However, the Edge Media Network has reported that Reeves just reopened the 2014 case, telling the plaintiffs with the Campaign for Southern Equality to identify any clerks in Mississippi who’ve denied (or continue to deny) marriage licenses to LGBTQ couples.
If any clerks have done so (or continue do so) under the pretense of “sincerely held religious beliefs,” then the 2014 case can proceed with new evidence of LGBTQ people harmed by HB 1523, creating a case that could potentially overturn the hideous anti-LGBTQ law on either the state or federal level.
Of course, if U.S. President Donald Trump installs more any more conservative justices into the U.S. Supreme Court, then Reeves’ 2014 case could still go down in flames. And Governor Bryant will certainly appeal Reeves’ case as well. So really, this is all really a case of wait and see, but our fingers are crossed.
Featured image by zimmytws via iStock