Law Allowing ‘State-Sanctioned Discrimination’ Against LGBT Community Blocked by US District Judge

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves issued a 60-page opinion yesterday which blocked House Bill 1523, also known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” mere moments before it was due to come into effect, according to The Denver Post. In the document, Reeves said that the controversial law, which was initially signed by Republican Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant amid praise from Christian groups, violated the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee for the LGBT community and allowed Mississippi to “put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others.”

According to Reuters, Reeves issued an injunction Thursday, which blocked the law on the grounds that it was essentially discriminatory against those who identified as LGBT. The law, according to WBALTV, would have allowed officials to deny LGBT people marriage, adoption, and foster care services; fire or refuse to employ them; and decline to rent or sell them property. Furthermore, medical professionals could have been able to participate in any sort of medical care related to “sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning,” areas in which the LGBT community has struggled for years.

Reeves said that he believed HB1523 did not have a legitimate, rational end, though proponents of the bill said that it supported the rights of Christian groups who felt that last year’s landmark ruling allowing same-sex marriage in all of the United States. Supporters of HB1523 also felt that the government was effectively discriminating against those who did not support same-sex marriage Reeves disagreed, saying that the law would have granted special rights to those who felt they were effectively elevated above the LGBT community.

In addition, HB1523 would have imposed dress code and bathroom restrictions on those who identify as transgender, which would be a similar restriction currently occurring in North Carolina.

In his statement, Reeves also said that he felt the Mississippi law would have diminished the rights of Mississippi’s LGBT citizens, adding that the law would have effectively violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Rev. Susan Hrostowski, an Episcopal priest and a member of the LGBT community, said she was grateful that Reeves issued the injunction.

“I am grateful that the court has blocked this divisive law. As a member of the LGBT community and as minister of the Gospel, I am thankful that justice prevailed,” she said.

Roberta Kaplan, an attorney who was one of many who filed a challenge against the law, said in a statement that Reeves “enforced the fundamental constitutional principle that the government cannot establish any religion.”

Kaplan also represents the group Campaign for Southern Equality, a group designed to promote equal rights for LGBT citizens across the southern United States. SouthernEquality.org slammed the law, saying it was “the nation’s most sweeping anti-LGBT law.” Kaplan added that “the civil rights of LGBT Mississippians will not be subordinated to the religious beliefs of only certain religious groups.”

Campaign for Southern Equality has also gone up against House Bill 2, which is the controversial bill from North Carolina that has so often come up in the news lately. Mountain Xpress contributor and LGBT Rights Toolkit coordinator for the Campaign for Southern Equality Ivy Hill said in an opinion piece that “we are constantly navigating a rigid gender binary many of us do not fit into” and cited a study from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law which noted that the suicide rates for those who identify as transgender is nearly 10 times higher than the national average of 4.6 percent.

When one considers those statistics, it can become easier to see why an injunction such as the one United States District Judge Reeves passed is so very important. The rock group Depeche Mode said in their song “People are People” years ago that “People are people so why should it be/you and I should get along so awfully?” When it comes to the LGBT community, should we not at least try to remember that people are just people – it doesn’t matter who they love?

(AP Photo/Tim Roske)