Appeals court considers whether to allow Mississippi to enforce anti-gay law
Arguments are being heard on both sides of an argument around a law which would allow anti-LGBT discrimination in Mississippi.
The law, which was halted last July before it could take effect by a federal district judge, would allow merchants and government employees to discriminate if they have religious objections to same-sex marriage.
Both sides have expressed confidence after arguments were heard at the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday in Lubbock, Texas.
An attorney for some of the plaintiffs who sued the state, Robert Kaplan, says the law is unconstitutional as it allows specific religious belief to trump civil rights.
Alliance Defending Freedom is defending the state. The Arizona-based legal group’s Kevin Theriot has said the law protects those with genuinely held religious beliefs.
The state’s Republican governor wants federal courts to uphold the law.
Governor Phil Bryant believes that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, that a person’s gender is set at birth and that gay sex is an act against God – and he wants the state to agree with him.
The Mississippi native has asked a federal appeals court to introduce the “religious objections” law, despite the fact it was previously blocked by U.S District Judge Carlton Reeves.
Reeves ruled that the law “unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
Mississippi’s Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood later refused to appeal Reeves’ ruling, but that won’t stop Bryant.
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The appeal is now being dealt with by private attorneys – including some working for Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based Christian legal group that helped write the measure.
The law would have protected business who claim to have “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” in objection to same-sex marriage.
Bryant signed the new law in April last year – ignoring pleas from business leaders in the state.
After signing the bill, Bryant won praise from conservative Christian groups and received a religious freedom award from the Family Research Council.
However, he also faced an immense amount of backlash nationally as well as hundreds of protesters who went to his mansion to demand the repeal of the anti-LGBT law.
In June, Governor Bryant said he’d rather be executed through crucifixion than repeal the anti-LGBT legislation.