In April 2016, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed HB 1523.
The law, known as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act officially protects religious and moral convictions within the state from action by the government. The convictions specific to the bill regard the definition of marriage, sexual relations within a marriage, and “an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”
In other words, you’re allowed to – gasp – hold personal beliefs!
Among those protected by the law include the following:
- religious organizations (free to decline services, accommodations, or facilities)
- foster or adoptive parents (free to raise a child as they wish)
- business owners who provide marriage-related services (photography, wedding planning, bakers, other vendors)
- persons with sex-specific standards for their facilities (spas, baths, showers, dressing rooms)
- state employees (free to recuse themselves from authorizing/licensing/performing marriages so long as the process isn’t impeded)
Naturally, this law does not mean members of the LGBT community are barred from buying a cake, scheduling a photographer, booking a clergyman for their wedding, getting a marriage license, or using a spa. What it does mean is that should one of the above-mentioned individuals have a religious or moral conviction that prevents them from providing services to an interested party, they will be free to live by their convictions and will not face government interference.
The reaction to the Mississippi law brought about two challenges that were eventually tossed by lower courts. The Hill reports, emphasis mine.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a lower court order putting the law on hold and dismissed the challenges brought by state residents and two groups — the Campaign for Southern Equality and Joshua Generation Metropolitan Community Church.
The court said the challengers did not prove they’ve been personally injured by the state law, which is required to bring a legal challenge. The court added that the residents and LGBT advocates only claimed to suffer a “stigmatic injury,” which it considers not enough to bring a case.
“Under this current record, the plaintiffs have not shown an injury-in-fact caused by HB 1523 that would empower the district court or this court to rule on its constitutionality,” the court said. “We do not foreclose the possibility that a future plaintiff may be able to show clear injury-in-fact that satisfies the ‘irreducible constitutional minimum of standing,’ but the federal courts must withhold judgment unless and until that plaintiff comes forward.”
And on Monday morning, the Supreme Court refused the two cases.
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear two cases challenging a Mississippi law that allows businesses and government employees to deny services to LGBT people based on their religious beliefs.
As previously stated, general dislike of the law is not the same as suffering actual injury under said law, thus, the court tossed the two cases because discrimination and/or injury could not be proven.
Given that nearly two years have passed since HB 1523 went into effect, it’s safe to say that the law protects the few who qualify for it without causing an enormous amount of actual societal upheaval in the Magnolia State. Why it’s as if adults are acting like adults when such an issue comes up. Imagine that.
Of course, there may come a time in the future when challenges, and documented discrimination, are brought before the courts again, but as of right now, these cases have been squashed.
As an American, I don’t want any individual punished by the state for holding personal beliefs. HB 1523 continues that protection within the state of Mississippi.
For now, SCOTUS agrees, too.