Mississippi civil rights attorney Rob McDuff, along with Mississippi Center for Justice and Lambda Legal, today argued before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that it should leave in place a federal district court injunction against House Bill 1523, Mississippi’s discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation.
The law was enacted last April, in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision granting marriage for same-sex couples nationwide. Last June, federal district court judge Carlton Reeves of Jackson issued a preliminary injunction preventing HB 1523 from taking effect.
HB 1523 sets forth a wide-ranging list of discriminatory actions that government officials and private businesses, individuals and some types of medical and social service providers can take against Mississippians based on religious and so-called “moral” objections to the existence of transgender people, marriages of same-sex couples and non-marital sexual relationships.
Under the law, businesses have the right to turn away same-sex couples for wedding services, the state cannot stop foster care providers from condemning and harming LGBT foster children in their care and some types of health care providers can deny services to LGBT and unmarried people without consequence from the state or any its departments.
In June, advocates filed two lawsuits arguing HB 1523 violated the U.S. Constitution – Barber v. Bryant, brought by McDuff and the Mississippi Center for Justice on behalf of 12 individual plaintiffs and the Joshua Generation Metropolitan Community Church, and Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) v. Bryant, brought by attorney Roberta Kaplan on behalf of CSE and one individual plaintiff.
The two cases were consolidated for the preliminary injunction proceedings before U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves, who agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument and blocked HB 1523 from taking effect. That ruling is now on appeal before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Lambda Legal has joined as co-counsel for the Barber plaintiffs on appeal.
The 12 individuals and the church that are plaintiffs in Barber v. Bryant comprise a broad cross-section of Mississippians opposed to HB 1523 –ministers, LGBT residents, community leaders and activists. The lawsuit argues that HB 1523 violates the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.