Federal Court Upholds Law Allowing Refusal Of Service To LGBT Couples

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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A law allowing business owner to deny service to LGBT couples was ruled enforceable in Mississippi by a federal court Thursday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th circuit struck down a district court’s injunction against the law, which now allows business owners to refuse to serve gay, lesbian, or transgender couples on grounds of religious objection and also permits clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses to LGBT couples.

Foster care and adoption agencies can also choose to reject potential LGBT parents under this law, according to an AP report.

The court’s decision is a big win for the protection of religious liberties, according to Kevin Theriot, attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, which helped write the bill.

“The sole purpose of this law is to ensure that Mississippians don’t live in fear of losing their careers or their businesses simply for affirming marriage as a husband-wife union,” Theriot said. “Those who filed suit have not and will not be harmed but want to restrict freedom and impose their beliefs on others by ensuring dissenters are left open to the government discrimination that has already occurred in states without protective laws like this one.”

GOP Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant also praised the court’s decision and clarified that the intent of the law is not discrimination, but the opposite.

“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,” Bryant said.

Bryant signed the bill into law in 2016.

Opponents of the bill immediately filed for appeal following the court’s ruling, as it will not be immediately put into effect, and claimed that the law is not only discriminatory, but also creates precedent for Mississippi to establish a state religion, given the law’s specific language with regard to safeguarding Christian beliefs.

“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,” said Roberta Kaplan, attorney for some of the plaintiffs in the case.

The law is the broadest one of its kind in terms of the rights it affords for religious objection, but it’s ultimate survival remains in question as no court has ruled whether it is constitutional or unconstitutional.

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