U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves issued a ruling blocking Mississippi’s so-called “religious freedom law,” just minutes before it was set to go into effect, according to reports by Mississippi Today.
In an article by Larrison Campbell, the digital news source says:
“In a blistering opinion that reached into Mississippi’s segregationist past, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves said House Bill 1523, signed by Gov. Phil Bryant in April, was another unfortunate example of Mississippi trying to write discrimination into its laws.
“‘Religious freedom was one of the building blocks of this great nation, and after the nation was torn apart, the guarantee of equal protection under law was used to stitch it back together. But HB 1523 does not honor that tradition of religion freedom, nor does it respect the equal dignity of all of Mississippi’s citizens,’ Reeves wrote in his opinion.”
Gov. Bryant said HB 1523 “simply provides religious accommodations granted by many other states and federal law,” and that he is “disappointed Judge Reeves did not recognize that reality.” He also said he looks forward to “an aggressive appeal” of the ruling.
But Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood had a different take. He told Mississippi Today that the “churchgoing public was duped into believing that HB1523 protected religious freedoms,” adding, “Our state leaders attempted to mislead pastors into believing that if this bill were not passed, they would have to preside over gay wedding ceremonies. No court case has ever said a pastor did not have discretion to refuse to marry any couple for any reason. I hate to see politicians continue to prey on people who pray, go to church, follow the law and help their fellow man.”
Mississippi Today explains that “House Bill 1523 singles out three ‘sincerely held’ religious beliefs as worthy of protection: that marriage is between one man and one woman; that people should not have sex outside such marriages; and that a person’s gender is set at birth. The law protects from litigation anyone who speaks out against gay marriage or transgender individuals because of these beliefs.”
Earlier this week, Judge Reeves struck down a portion of the law that allowed the state’s county clerks to refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on the clerks’ “sincerely-held” religious beliefs.