Federal Appeals Court Hears Arguments On Mississippi Law That Would Legalize Anti-LGBT Discrimination

The Associated Press reports:

A federal appeals court is hearing arguments about a Mississippi law that would let merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves halted the law before it could take effect last July 1, ruling it unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for LGBT people.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which handles cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — is hearing arguments Monday afternoon about the Mississippi law in Lubbock, Texas. The law championed and signed Republican Gov. Phil Bryant sought to protect three beliefs: marriage is only between a man and a woman; sex should only take place in such a marriage; and a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered.

Gay and straight plaintiffs who sued the state say the law gives “special protections to one side” in a religious debate. The law started as House Bill 1523 . It would have allowed clerks to cite religious objections to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and would have protected merchants who refuse services to LGBT people. It could have affected adoptions and foster care, business practices and school bathroom policies.

The law is being defended by the anti-LGBT hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, who were hired by the state after Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, refused to do so. As it so often happens, the wording of the law was written by the ADF themselves. Lead attorney for the LGBT groups that brought the suit is DOMA champion Roberta Kaplan.