Federal Appeals Court Gives Green Light To Mississippi “Religious Freedom” Law Legalizing Anti-LGBT Discrimination

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed a judge’s injunction on an anti-LGBT Mississippi which will now allow merchants and government employees to cite religious beliefs in order to deny services to same-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves had previously ruled that Mississippi House Bill 1523 unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for LGBT people, reports the Associated Press.

ThinkProgress’s Zack Ford notes:

In a unanimous opinion issued Thursday, a three-judge panel determined that the plaintiffs challenging the law did not have proper standing to bring their complaint against the law. “Standing is not available to just any resident of a jurisdiction to challenge a government message without a corresponding action about a particular belief outside the context of a religious display or exercise,” the Court explained. The plaintiffs — several Mississippi residents, a church, and an advocacy organization — do not hold the beliefs outlined for special protection, but according to the Court, that doesn’t mean they are injured by the law.

Lambda Legal had this response to today’s ruling:

Today, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the injunction against Mississippi House Bill 1523, the discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation challenged in Barber v. Bryant, the federal lawsuit brought by Mississippi civil rights attorney Robert McDuff, the Mississippi Center for Justice and Lambda Legal. The advocates will continue to fight this discriminatory law.

Overruling the lower court decision, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit denied that LGBT Mississippians are subject to imminent discrimination by HB 1523 and ordered the block to the law lifted because the plaintiffs—a group of ministers, LGBT residents, community leaders and activists—lack standing since they cannot claim a specific harm caused by the law that has yet to go into effect.

“We had to put guards in front of our church after the bill initially passed because there was a truck with a swastika parked across the street and just this week the Christian Knights of the KKK distributed flyers throughout the Hattiesburg area. Today’s ruling leaves us more exposed, so we will have to be more vigilant than ever before to protect our church, our families and our dignity,” said Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear, Barber plaintiff.