Metro Weekly

Federal judge refuses to stay his ruling against Mississippi’s anti-LGBT law

Judge Carlton Reeves refuses Magnolia State's request to enforce law while they appeal his earlier decision

U.S. Courthouse in Natchez, Miss. for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi (Credit: General Services Administration, via Wikimedia Commons).
U.S. Courthouse in Natchez, Miss. for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi (Credit: General Services Administration, via Wikimedia Commons).

The federal judge who previously stopped the state of Mississippi from enforcing a “religious freedom” law that critics say condones anti-LGBT discrimination has refused to stay his previous order, BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner reports.

That means the Magnolia State is prohibited from enforcing the law, also known as HB 1523, which carves out special protections for people who disagree with same-sex marriage, homosexuality, transgenderism, or extramarital relations. Those special protections insulate businesses or individuals from being sued or denied tax credits, recertification, licenses or other benefits if they choose to refuse goods or services to LGBT people or others who do not conform to prescribed sexual mores.

U.S. Judge Carlton Reeves previously halted HB 1523 from going into effect, ruling that the law violated both the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In a lengthy opinion, Reeves noted that the law was the result of anti-LGBT animus following the legalization of marriage equality nationwide, and found that the law indicates a preference for particular religious beliefs, in violation of the Establishment Clause.

Following Reeves’ ruling, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant asked the judge to issue a stay of his preliminary injunction order. Had Reeves conceded, state officials would be allowed to enforce HB 1523’s provisions while it appealed his earlier ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. However, even before Reeves had decided whether to issue the stay, the state filed a motion asking the Fifth Circuit to do so instead.

In his opinion, Reeves excoriated the state’s reasoning behind asking for a stay, including the claim that not being able to enforce HB 1523 will harm the state.

“[I]ssuing a marriage license to a gay couple is not like being forced into armed combat or to assist with an abortion,” Reeves wrote. “Matters of life and death are sui generis. If movants truly believe that providing services to LGBT citizens forces them to ‘tinker with the machinery of death,’ their animus exceeds anything seen in Romer, Windsor, or the marriage equality cases.

“Although the movants contend that they are being irreparably injured because Mississippi cannot enforce HB 1523, enjoining this particular piece of legislation results in no injury to the State or its citizens,” Reeves continued. “A Mississippian — or a religious entity for that matter — holding any of the beliefs set out for special protection in [HB 1523] may invoke existing protections for religious liberty, including Mississippi’s Constitution, Mississippi’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the First Amendment to the United State Constitution. HB 1523’s absence does not impair the free exercise of religion.”

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