Mississippi law protecting religious conscience declared legal

Mississippi law protecting religious conscience declared legal

By Marvin Schrebe

A panel of three judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of appeals ruled that a Mississippi law protecting the right of people who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds was legal. This means, for example, a baker, who is asked to make a cake for a wedding celebrating gay marriage, can respectively decline the business due to conscience's sake and religious belief.  

The unanimous decision issued Thursday concluded that plaintiffs lacked the standing to sue the state over House Bill 1523, also called the Protecting freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, which reversed a lower court’s decision. The ruling read “The governor of Mississippi and the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services appeal a preliminary injunction. Because the plaintiffs do not have standing we reverse the injunction and render a judgment of dismissal,” wrote Circuit Judge Jerry Smith on behalf of the panel.  

Governor Phil Bryant signed HB 1523 into law in April 2016, which prohibits the state from forcing businesses or individuals to provide services to gay weddings. “The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that (a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage, and (c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at the time of birth” the house bill partly reads.

LGBT groups argued against the legislation and sued to have it struck down. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an order last year banning non-essential state travel to Mississippi.

“[I]t is the policy of the State of New York to promote fairness, protect the welfare of the citizens of the State of New Yew York, and combat discrimination,” Cuomo’s 2016 order stated.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins applauded Thursday’s ruling. He said “No person should be punished with crippling fines or face disqualification for simply believing what President Obama believed until five years ago, that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”

Photo: Governor Phil Bryant

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