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Supreme Court Declines to Hear Mississippi Anti-LGBTQ Law

March 28th, 2018

Petitioners in Mississippi will have to wait to have their day before the U.S. Supreme Court, after their challenge to an anti-LGBTQ law was declined by the high court.

Petitioners in Mississippi will have to wait to have their day before the U.S. Supreme Court, after their challenge to an anti-LGBTQ law was declined by the high court.

The United States Supreme Court recently refused to become part of a legal battle against the state of Mississippi regarding an anti-LGBTQ law. The law in question allows both private businesses and state employees to deny services to members of the LGBTQ community based solely on religious grounds. The law took effect on October 10, 2017 and will remain effective in the state of Mississippi. Sponsors of the legislation claim that they wanted to protect people who feel that marriage only exists between a man and woman and that gender is determined at birth. The law was quickly challenged, but lower court rulings weakened the basis of parties who wanted to challenge the law.

The History of the Law

The 2016 law was passed following the United States Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that legalized same sex marriage. The Mississippi law was one of a body of anti-LGBTQ laws proposed in a socially conservative, Republican state that was viewed by gay rights advocates as an effort to undermine the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling.

The Nature of the Law

The law, which is referred to as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, protects the specific views that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, that sex outside such a marriage is improper, that gender is determined by anatomy, and that genetics at birth are not capable of being changed. This law lets businesses refuse to provide marriage-related services to same sex couples and also allows judges and courts of law to refuse to perform same-sex weddings.

Challenges to the Law

Two lawsuits, Barber v. Bryant and Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, have challenged the law. Plaintiffs in both of these cases are Mississippi individuals and institutions. Attorneys for each of these cases, however, filed petitions for Supreme Court review separately.

Response to the Supreme Court’s Decision

Legal counsel from Lambda Legal, which is fighting on behalf of the plaintiffs, have announced that this decisions by the Supreme Court will not be the last of challenges to this anti-LGBTQ law. Lambda Legal also argues that the court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges and later in Pavan v. Smith has established that same couples should be treated like other families in the country and afforded the same constitutional rights. In addition to Lambda Legal, the plaintiffs in Barber v. Bryant are represented by the Mississippi Center for Justice and lawyer Robert McDuff.

Other LGBTQ rights groups have criticized the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the case. The GLAAD organization argues that discrimination perpetuated by this law could affect the service that LGBTQ people receive in hotels, hospitals, businesses, and child care. The Freedom for All Americans group has also argued that the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the case will result in individuals who identify as LGBTQ in Mississippi having to face continued discrimination and harassment.

Continue Reading the Universal Life Church’s Blog

More legal challenges are expected to arise concerning the law, which was signed by Republican Governor Phillip Bryant with the support of conservative Christian activists. It is likely that people who initiate lawsuits after this case will have an easier time establishing standing. Each month, the Universal Life Church’s blog is dedicated to detailing the various developments that occur. As these changes happen, the Universal Life Church’s blog aims to describe matters in a way that will keep our readers informed.

(image courtesy of Peter Hershey)

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