Federal court lifts injunction on controversial Mississippi religious objection bill

Federal court lifts injunction on controversial Mississippi religious objection bill

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] lifted an injunction [opinion, PDF] Thursday on a Mississippi law that critics say allows individuals, including government employees, to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people for religious reasons. According to a legal analysis [text, PDF] from Columbia University [official website], House Bill 1523 [text], or the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, “strips Mississippians of applicable anti-discrimination protections in order to accommodate the preferences of religious individuals and institutions.” Those with “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” can discriminate against LGBTQ individuals by denying housing, occupation, educational guidance, and other services. Heterosexual individuals could also be adversely affected such as single mothers being denied housing or jobs due to a religious objection of premarital sex. The three-judge panel stated:

Because a preliminary injunction may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief, the plaintiffs must make a clear showing that they have standing to maintain the preliminary injunction. None of these plaintiffs has clearly shown an injury-in-fact, so none has standing.

Additionally, “It is not enough simply to argue that there has been some violation of the Establishment Clause; the plaintiffs must allege a personal violation of rights.” The plaintiffs can request a rehearing before the full Fifth Circuit panel or appeal directly to the Supreme Court [official website].

LGBT protections are still disputed globally and many rights groups have raised concerns about the future of LGBT rights within the US since the November elections. In May the US Supreme Court declined to hear [JURIST report] an appeal challenging California’s 2012 ban on “gay conversion” therapy. In April Nigerian prosecutors in Kaduna charged [JURIST report] 53 men for celebrating an LGBTQ wedding in violation of the state’s law against “unlawful assembly” and the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. The same week Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] and other advocacy groups urged [JURIST report] UN Secretary General António Guterres [official website] to investigate alleged abuse against LGBT people in Chechnya. A week earlier the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] dropped [JURIST report] a federal lawsuit against the state of North Carolina over a bill requiring transgender people to use the public bathroom associated with their birth gender.