MISSISSIPPI: Federal Court Strikes Down Entire Bill Which Legalized Anti-LGBT Discrimination

All hail Roberta Kaplan! From the Washington Post:

U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves late Thursday night issued an injunction blocking a bill by the Mississippi legislature that would have allowed private citizens and some public officials professing a “sincere religious belief” to deny services to gays and lesbians.

Just minutes before House Bill 1523 was to take effect at midnight, Reeves eviscerated the bill — the most sweeping attempt by a state to undermine the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to legalize gay marriage — as being in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

“The State has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others. Showing such favor tells ‘nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and . . . adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.’ ” Reeves wrote, citing precedent. “And the Equal Protection Clause is violated by HB 1523’s authorization of arbitrary discrimination against lesbian, gay, transgender, and unmarried persons.”

“The plaintiffs’ motions are granted and HB 1523 is preliminarily enjoined.” Coupled with a ruling Reeves filed earlier in the week — preventing circuit clerks from denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples — the proposed law is, for the moment, stillborn.

Roberta A. Kaplan, the New York-based attorney who represented plaintiffs in both the adoption case and HB1523, invoked the state’s racially segregated history in hearings in late June as a comparison to the proposed law. “There can’t be separate but equal marriage,” she told Reeves. “There can’t be Jim Crow kind of gay marriage in the state of Mississippi.”

UPDATE: Kaplan weighs in.

“As Thomas Jefferson wrote more than 200 years ago, one of the founding principles of our nation is that civil rights should have no dependence on anyone’s religious opinions. This is so because Americans today as well as in the past fiercely disagree over matters of religious belief. Indeed, American religious organizations today are almost evenly divided on the question of whether the essential dignity of gay men and lesbians requires them to be allowed to marry. In striking down HB 1523, the Court enforced the fundamental constitutional principle that the government cannot establish any religion. As a result, Mississippi will no longer be permitted to favor some ‘religious beliefs’ over others, and the civil rights of LGBT Mississippians will not be subordinated to the religious beliefs of only certain religious groups,” says Roberta Kaplan, lead counsel for the Campaign for Southern Equality.