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Supreme Court Refuses Challenge to Mississippi's Anti-LGBT Law

By George Khoury, Esq. on January 09, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

While it is usually no shock when SCOTUS rejects highly controversial cases, that was not the case this week when it rejected the appeals in Barber v. Bryant, and Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant.

This pair of cases challenged Mississippi's controversial "religious freedom" law HB 1523, which permits individuals and businesses to deny service to LGBT individuals if the individual or business sincerely holds the beliefs or convictions that marriage should only be between a man and woman, that premarital sex is wrong, and/or that gender can only be determined by anatomy at birth.

Government Sanctioned Discrimination

As an attorney, it may be difficult to see any of these new-fangled, so-called "religious freedom" laws as anything other than state sanctioned discrimination privileging the religious over the non-religious. The Mississippi law goes a step further than most RFRA laws by allowing state officials to deny services to LGBT individuals as well. For instance, now in Mississippi, a justice of the peace cannot be penalized (legally) for refusing to perform a same-sex marriage.

Curiously, before the passage of HB 1523, there were no documented instances of a religious person being forced to service any LGBT individuals under threat of legal action. Even more curiously, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the challengers had not yet been harmed and as such dismissed the case for a lack of standing despite the district court ruling in favor of law's challengers for rather clear reasons. Notably, the state AG did not want to file an appeal, but the state's governor went ahead regardless.

However, the challengers of this questionable statute will doubtlessly be filing a new lawsuit once the law has had enough time to actually cause harm, which it will doubtlessly do. Additionally, SCOTUS already has a similar case on its docket, the Masterpiece Cake Shop case, which is about whether a Colorado baker can be compelled to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

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