Mississippi Bill Permitting Discrimination Against LGBTQ People Becomes Law Tomorrow

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Same-sex marriage advocates asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to quash a new Mississippi law that lets businesses and government workers reject services to LGBT people because of their religious objections.

The advocates’ request to the high court came soon after the Mississippi law went into effect Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Also known as “The Religious Liberty Accommodations Act,” HB 1523 gives businesses the right to refuse service to LGBTQ people due to religious views or preferences.

“As of this week it will be legal for any business owner in Mississippi to tell your pastor he can’t have lunch in their establishment, to tell me I can’t sleep in their inn, to tell me I can’t buy from their shelves,” said Robert Lowry, pastor of Fondren Presbyterian Church in Jackson. Lowry spoke with passion about the bill during his Sunday morning sermon, at which select Gay Men’s Chorus members sang. Lowry is gay.

Lowry said this week is a turning point for Mississippi because of the passing of the highly-contested bill, and that the Bay Area singers’ visit sends a powerful message.

“The religious liberty law is really a law for discrimination,” Lowry said in an interview before the service. “It’s important the choir is visiting right now, coming and celebrating and sharing their gifts and bringing this message of wholeness and peace and community into our community.”

A panel of judges from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the hold on the law June 22, saying people who sued the state had failed to show they would be harmed. Plaintiffs asked the whole appeals court to reverse that decision, but the court said Sept. 29 that it would not do so. That opened the way for the law to take effect in Mississippi.

The 5th Circuit handles appeals from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and is considered one of the most conservative federal appeals courts. Opponents of the law wrote in their appeal to the Supreme Court that the 5th Circuit decision conflicts with decisions from other federal appeals courts and “it has staggering implications.”

“Under the (appeals) court’s reasoning, a state could enact a statute establishing Christianity — or any other religion — as the official religion of the state, and no plaintiff would have standing to challenge that statute,” the opponents’ attorneys wrote. They noted that “numerous” bills similar to Mississippi’s have been introduced in other state legislatures.

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