Via press release from the ACLU:
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Mississippi today filed a lawsuit to challenge an anti-LGBT law passed this spring that allows public officials and businesses to refuse to serve gay and transgender individuals.
The lawsuit, which targets the registrar of vital records, was filed on behalf of ACLU of Mississippi members and Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas, a gay couple who are engaged to be married and face discrimination as a result of this law.
Plaintiffs Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas have been engaged for nearly two years. They describe the law, HB 1523, as “a slap in the face.”
“When HB 1523 passed, it was heartbreaking because it takes away our chance to finally be treated equally. At a time when we’re supposed to be excited as a couple engaged to be married, this law permits discrimination against us simply because of who we are. This is not the Mississippi we’re proud to call home. We’re hopeful others will come to realize this and not allow this harmful measure to become law,” they said.
The Supreme Court was clear in its marriage ruling last year: States must provide the “same legal treatment” to married same-sex couples that they provide to the marriages of different-sex couples. HB 1523 directly contradicts the Supreme Court’s ruling by treating the marriages of same-sex couples differently than the marriages of everyone else, the ACLU said. The statute does not authorize anyone to discriminate against the marriages of different-sex couples based on religious beliefs. It singles out the marriages of same-sex couples and provides a special right for governmental officials and for-profit businesses to discriminate against them.
“We’re stepping up to fight this sweeping anti-LGBT and unconstitutional law that authorizes discrimination against gay and transgender people,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Josh Block. “HB 1523 has no rightful place in Mississippi or in our history books, and we’re hopeful this lawsuit can stop as much of it as possible before it goes into effect. We won’t rest until every last piece of this law is struck down and all LGBT people in Mississippi have equal justice under the law.”
The harms caused by HB 1523 are not limited to married same-sex couples. In particular, HB 1523 includes many provisions authorizing discrimination against transgender people outside the context of marriage, and against anyone who has sex outside of heterosexual marriage. For procedural reasons, those other provisions cannot be attacked in this pre-enforcement challenge against the registrar, but the ACLU and ACLU of Mississippi are committed to challenging these other provisions as soon as possible if they go into effect.
“The ACLU stands firmly against discrimination in all forms,” said ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer Riley-Collins. All citizens deserve the right to be treated equally regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The ACLU of Mississippi will continue to work to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the U.S. Constitution guarantees everyone in this country.”
The case, ACLU of Mississippi v. Judy Moulder, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in Jackson. The ACLU and attorney Oliver Diaz are co-counsel.
Judy Moulder is the head of Mississippi’s Department of Vital Records.