Politics

Mississippi’s LGBT Law Allowing Refusal Of Service Explodes Into Lawsuit

(GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

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Casey Harper Contributor
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Mississippi’s LGBT law allowing businesses to refuse service because of their religious beliefs is now the center of a major lawsuit.

The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Mississippi filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the state over its recent “religious liberty” law, which allows businesses and government employees to refuse service based on their religious beliefs. The law would go into effect July 1.

Republican Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523 in April. The law protects people who refuse service because of their sincerely held religious beliefs on premarital sex, gender and traditional marriage. The ACLU suit comes the same day North Carolina filed a lawsuit against the federal government over their transgender bathroom law.

The Mississippi law, HB1523, specifically says that people can refuse service based on their belief that sex belongs within marriage, that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and that gender corresponds with your anatomical gender at birth. Hypothetically, the bill would protect florists who refused to service gay weddings or government employees like Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who would not issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple citing her religious beliefs. Republicans and Democrats have argued over how far the bill’s language allows the refusal of service to go.

“We’re stepping up to fight this sweeping anti-LGBT and unconstitutional law that authorizes discrimination against gay and transgender people,” ACLU staff attorney Josh Block said in a statement. “HB 1523 has no rightful place in Mississippi or in our history books, and we’re hopeful this lawsuit can stop as much of it as possible before it goes into effect. We won’t rest until every last piece of this law is struck down and all LGBT people in Mississippi have equal justice under the law.”

Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas, a same-sex couple engaged to be married, are plaintiffs in the lawsuit saying the law subjects them to discrimination.

“When HB 1523 passed, it was heartbreaking because it takes away our chance to finally be treated equally,” they said in a statement. “At a time when we’re supposed to be excited as a couple engaged to be married, this law permits discrimination against us simply because of who we are. This is not the Mississippi we’re proud to call home. We’re hopeful others will come to realize this and not allow this harmful measure to become law.”

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