State leaders, others comment on House Bill 1523

JACKSON, Miss. (WHLT) — Several state leaders and several organizations are commenting on the controversial House Bill 1523 a federal appeals court said Mississippi could start enforcing it.

The law allows merchants and government employees to cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples.The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed a judge’s decision that had blocked the law before it could take effect last July.

Below are some comments from state leaders and organiztions who are at odds about the Religious Objections Law:

Gov. Phil Bryant:

I am pleased the Fifth Circuit has ruled to dismiss the case and allow House Bill 1523 to become law. As I have said all along, the legislation is not meant to discriminate against anyone, but simply prevents government interference with the constitutional right to exercise sincerely held religious beliefs. — Gov. Bryant

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves:

“House Bill 1523 simply protected Mississippians from government interference when practicing their deeply held religious beliefs, and I appreciate the Fifth Circuit clearing the path for this law to take effect,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said.

ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer Riley Collins:

“We are disappointed that the appeals court has reversed the preliminary injunction placed on HB 1523 and dismissed the case. This decision places the plaintiffs and thousands more LGBT Mississippians and single parents in a position where they can actually be harmed for living as their authentic selves. This broad license to discriminate includes provisions that would seek to allow state employees to withhold marriage licenses from same-sex couples.

“We are ready to move forward with our case filed on behalf of ACLU members Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas, who are planning to marry in Mississippi in the near future. That case was put on hold until the court of appeals ruled.  We will continue to proceed on behalf of Nykolas and Stephen to protect them, and other same-sex couples from this harmful and discriminatory law.

“Freedom of religion is one of the most fundamental rights as Americans, but that freedom does not give any of us the right to harm or mistreat others.

“The ACLU of Mississippi will continue to advocate for equal protection for our plaintiffs and the LGBT community in Mississippi. We stand ready to defend those who are harmed by any confrontations as a result of this ruling.

“We urge the community to contact us if they or someone they know experiences any discrimination.”

Campaign for Southern Equality:

“This decision is not only deeply upsetting for the rights of LGBT individuals living in Mississippi, but also for the protection of religious liberty in our country. Our clients have already suffered enough. The state communicated a message loudly and clearly with the passage of HB 1523: only certain anti-LGBT beliefs will get the protection and endorsement of the state. Under the logic of this opinion, it would be constitutional for the state of Mississippi to pass a law establishing Southern Baptist as the official state religion. We plan to seek an en banc review of the decision by the 5th Circuit” says Roberta Kaplan, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, one of two cases challenging HB1523.

“HB 1523 is a reckless law designed with only one purpose – to discriminate against LGBT people in Mississippi. We will continue to fight this law in federal courts and to stand with the LGBT community across Mississippi,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.

Mississippi Center for Public Policy President Forest Thigpen issued the following statement regarding the ruling:

“While the Fifth Circuit did not engage on the merits of this case, it did reach the right conclusion by allowing the law to finally go into effect. This law strikes a balance between competing rights. It restrains government from penalizing people who hold sincere beliefs about marriage and gender.”

Thigpen said, “The court called the legal challenge to HB 1523 ‘quite radical,’ affirming that the plaintiffs have not suffered any injury from a law whose primary aim is to protect people from government discrimination. As the Court also observed, ‘HB 1523 does nothing to compel the behavior of these plaintiffs; it only restricts the actions of state government officials.’”

The Spectrum Center:

The Spectrum Center vigorously condemns today’s ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that HB 1523 can go into effect because the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi has no standing to bring suit against its enforcement.

All Mississippians should be appalled at HB 1523, which legalizes discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community under the guise of religious freedom. This cynical use of faith to single out one group for persecution undermines the very community that religious belief seeks to build. It is illegal to use religion as a pretext for racism or sexism; the same should be true of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

The Spectrum Center will continue to fight for full equality in Mississippi, which enhances the lives not only of the LGBTQ+ community in the Pine Belt but the lives of ALL Mississippians.

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