February 2018 Church & State - February 2018

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Miss. Discrimination Case

  Rokia Hassanein

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear two cases involving a Mississippi law that allows religion as a legal justification for discrimination against LGBTQ people, single mothers, divorcees, anyone who has had sex outside of marriage – and their families.

Misnamed a “religious freedom” law, HB 1523 would allow a range of individuals, corporations, health care provi­ders and nonprofit organizations – including those that re­ceive taxpayer funding – to refuse goods and services based on their religious beliefs.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed HB 1523 into law in April 2016, and several state residents and organizations filed lawsuits challenging the law. A federal judge soon afterward ruled that the law was unconstitutional, but Bryant appealed that decision with the assistance of Religious Right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Ap­peals in late June ruled the plaintiffs in Barber v. Bryant didn’t have the right to sue because they had not yet been harmed by the law, which, at the time, had not yet gone into effect.

Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief sup­porting the residents’ request to the 5th Circuit, explaining that people were harmed by HB 1523 because its mere existence relegates them to second-class citizens in their state, “unworthy of equal dignity, equal citizenship, and equal protection of the laws.”

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