Court allows Mississippi to enforce LGBT religious objections law
© File photo

A federal appeals court said this week that Mississippi can enforce a law allowing private citizens, merchants and federal employees to deny services to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals on religious grounds.

The three-judge panel on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the decision overturning a previous decision blocking enforcement of the law, the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, according to reports.

The law was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant (R) in 2016. The plaintiffs immediately appealed the ruling, and lawyers say that enforcement will remain blocked during the appeals process. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Thursday’s decision stated that the plaintiffs challenging the act had no standing before the law because it had not affected or injured them, and the panel did not rule on the constitutionality of the law.

“None of these plaintiffs has clearly shown an injury-of-fact, so none has standing,” the judges wrote in the 16-page decision.

A federal judge filed an injunction on the law last June before it could take effect, citing that it violated the first and 14th amendments.

“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 in a statement Thursday.

The law aims to protect traditional marriages after the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriages. It would allow government clerks to cite religious objections to certifying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and allow businesses to deny marriage-related services to LGBT people if such services were to violate a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

The passage of the law communicated “loudly and clearly” that “only certain anti-LGBT beliefs will get the protection of the state,” said Robert Kaplan, an attorney representing some of the plaintiffs challenging the law.

“Under the logic of this opinion, it would be constitutional for the state of Mississippi to pass a law establishing Southern Baptists as the official state religion,” Kaplan said.

Plaintiffs now have the option to rehear the case before the 5th Circuit or appeal to the Supreme Court.