Mississippi's 'Turn Away the Gays' Law May Head to Supreme Court


Plaintiffs in a suit against Mississippi's anti-LGBT "religious freedom" legislation are taking a calculated risk and appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court before the law goes into effect on Friday.

Mississippi's Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, House Bill 1523, will allow LGBT people to be turned away if businesses and service providers object to them on religious grounds. The hateful legislation is supported by the state's Republican governor, Phil Bryant (pictured).

The Campaign for Southern Equality, Lambda Legal, and the Metropolitan Community Church are some of the plaintiffs that have challenged the legality of HB 1523 since it passed last year. A U.S. district judge blocked its implementation in July 2016, stating it was unconstitutional. Equality opponents appealed to a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which reversed the earlier decision by ruling the plaintiffs could not prove injuries incurred by HB 1523 since it had yet to go into effect. An appeal was made for a hearing involving more judges, which was denied. 

“This is an unfair and unconstitutional law, and we are taking our claim to the Supreme Court,” Rob McDuff, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement, according to Metro Weekly. “People should not have to live through discrimination in order to challenge it.”

HB 1523 will now be the law of the land in Mississippi unless the Supreme Court steps in and blocks it. The high court leans slightly conservative, with new justice Neil Gorsuch a reliably antigay vote. Justice Anthony Kennedy is typically a swing vote but has often ruled on the side of LGBT rights, including the decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

Under then-Gov. Mike Pence, Indiana passed a similar "religious freedom" law in 2015. Under extreme pressure, Pence signed a "fix" to the bill making it clearer that discrimination against LGBT people is not encouraged.

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