Religious Liberty Accommodations Act

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Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.
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Mississippi Legislature
An Act To Create The "protecting Freedom Of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act"; To Provide Certain Protections Regarding A Sincerely Held Religious Belief Or Moral Conviction For Persons, Religious Organizations And Private Associations; To Define A Discriminatory Action For Purposes Of This Act; To Provide That A Person May Assert A Violation Of This Act As A Claim Against The Government; To Provide Certain Remedies; To Require A Person Bringing A Claim Under This Act To Do So Not Later Than Two Years After The Discriminatory Action Was Taken; To Provide Certain Definitions; And For Related Purposes.
Citation H.B. 1523
Enacted by Mississippi House of Representatives
Date passed February 19, 2016
Enacted by Mississippi State Senate
Date passed March 30, 2016
Date signed April 5, 2016
Signed by Governor Phil Bryant
Date effective July 1, 2016; enjoined
Introduced by Speaker Philip Gunn
Related legislation
Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act of 2013; Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Status: In force

Mississippi House Bill 1523 (H.B. 1523), also called the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act or Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, is 2016 state legislation passed in direct response to federal rulings in support of same-sex marriage.[1] MS H.B. 1523 provides protections for persons, religious organizations, and private associations who choose to provide or withhold services discriminatorily in accordance to the three "deeply held religious beliefs or moral convictions" which are specifically outlined in the bill.[2] These protected beliefs are 1) that marriage is and should be a heterosexual union, 2) sex should not occur outside of marriage, and 3) that biologically-assigned sex is objective and immutably linked to gender.[2][3][4][1]

MS H.B. 1523 protects organizations, companies, and individuals that use any of the aforementioned "deeply held religious beliefs or moral convictions" to justify the choice to deny or offer several different types of services. Individual and organizational decisions that are protected under MS H.B. 1523 include--but are not limited to--issuing marriage licenses, granting adoptions, hiring practices (including state employees), healthcare coverage, housing agreements, as well as specific medical services (including sex reassignment surgery or conversion therapy).[3]

After being passed through Mississippi legislature, H.B. 1523 was originally intended to come into effect on July 1, 2016; however, U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law on June 30. Three days before, he had issued a permanent injunction requiring government officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples regardless of the officials' religious beliefs.[5] On June 23, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed Reeves' district court decision, holding that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit lacked standing to bring the lawsuit. The Fifth Circuit accordingly lifted the injunctions, allowing the law to go into effect. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.[6]

Background[edit]

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. This decision legalized same-sex marriage throughout the U.S. (including in Mississippi) and found that the right to marry is a fundamental right within the U.S. and cannot legally be denied to same-sex couples.[7]

On March 31, 2016, U.S. District Judge Daniel Porter Jordan III issued a preliminary injunction striking down the Mississippi's ban on adoption rights for same-sex couples which had been in effect since 2000, declaring it unconstitutional.[8][9]

In the aftermath of these federal rulings, House Bill 1523 was introduced. Mississippi legislators intended to create a bill establishing state-specific exemptions to these federal decisions, namely protection for individuals, organizations, and institutions who choose to deny rights to LGBT individuals based on religious beliefs. Republican State Senator Jenifer Branning drew a direct connection between Obergefell and H.B. 1523 when she introduced the bill on the senate floor, saying “this is presenting a solution to the crossroads we find ourselves in today as a result of Obergefell v. Hodges.”[10]

Legislative history[edit]

Representatives Philip Gunn, William Tracy Arnold, C. Scott Bounds, Lester Carpenter, J. Andrew Gipson, William Shirley, Randy Boyd, and Dan Eubanks officially introduced House Bill 1523, titled "Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act".[11]

On February 19, 2016, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed the bill, with 80 ayes, 39 nays, and 3 absent or not voting.[12]

On March 30, 2016, the Mississippi Senate passed an amended bill, with a 32 ayes, 17 nays, and 1 absent or not voting.[13]

On April 1, 2016, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed the bill as amended by the Senate, with 69 ayes, 44 nays, 7 absent or not voting, and 1 voted present.[14]

On April 5, 2016, GovernorPhil Bryant signed the bill. The bill was intended to go into effect on July 1, 2016.[11]

On April 12, 2016, Mississippi state representatives including Rep. Jay Hughes introduced a suspension resolution, titled the Mississippi Economic and Tourism Recovery Act, aimed at repealing HB 1523.[15][16]


On June 27, 2016, U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves entered a permanent injunction blocking HB 1523’s provision allowing county clerks to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses.[17]

On June 30, 2016, hours before the law was to come into force, Judge Reeves issued a preliminary injunction blocking the rest of HB 1523.[18][19]

On July 13, 2016, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced his office would not pursue an appeal of Judge Reeves' ruling.[20]

On July 7, Governor Phil Bryant filed an appeal against Judge Reeves’ preliminary injunction.[21]

On June 23, 2017, Judge Reeves' injunction was lifted and the law went into effect.[22]

On January 8, 2018, the United States Supreme Court declined to review the matter.[23]

Response[edit]

Proponents of H.B. 1523 argue that the bill protects individuals, businesses, and organizations from being discriminated against by the government for enacting their religious beliefs.[24] Another argument of the bill's supporters is that H.B. 1523 is an example of Mississippi enacting exemptions to the federal Obergefell decision through state legislation.[25]

Opponents of H.B. 1523 argue that the bill denies LGBT people of their constitutionally-protected rights. Some claim that this enables individuals, businesses, and organizations to justify discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or sexual activity.[26] In addition to the bill's implications for same-sex couples and LGBT identified individuals, opponents of the bill have expressed concern about the potential discriminatory effects of H.B. 1523 on single parents and single-parent families as well as individuals who have had premarital sex.[27] On April 5, 2016, the Human Rights Campaign lambasted Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant for signing into law H.B. 1523.[28] A week later, 95 Mississippi writers signed a letter opposing H.B. 1523.; the list of signees includes John Grisham, Donna Tartt, W. Ralph Eubanks, Kiese Laymon, and Greg Iles.[29] The passing of H.B. 1523 has received criticism and sparked backlash from some Mississippi communities, other municipalities and states, and communities all across the globe.

Local government[edit]

On April 6, 2016, the Jackson City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing HB 1523. The resolution states that Jackson acknowledges the United States Constitution, which prohibits governments from respecting an establishment of religion and protects all people equally under the law. Mayor Tony Yarber also released his own statement: "As a predominantly black city in Mississippi, the Jackson community has endured racism, discrimination and injustice over the years. We are Mississippi’s capital city, and as part of our declaration of being the ‘Bold New City,’ we will not discriminate against any individual because of race, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, nor do we support legislation that allows for such discrimination."[30]

Travel bans[edit]

States and municipalities banning publicly funded travel to Mississippi
  Publicly funded travel banned by state government
  Publicly funded travel banned by city and state government
  Publicly funded travel banned by county government
  Publicly funded travel banned by city and county government
  Publicly funded travel banned by city government

As of December 2, 2016, the states of California,[31] Connecticut,[32] Minnesota,[33] New York,[34] Vermont,[34] and Washington,[35] the District of Columbia,[36][37] the counties of Dane (Wisconsin),[38] Franklin (Ohio),[39] Montgomery (Maryland),[40] and Multnomah (Oregon),[41] and the cities of Baltimore,[42] Berkeley,[43] Cincinnati,[44] Dayton,[45] Honolulu,[46] Long Beach,[47] Los Angeles,[48] Miami Beach,[49] New York City,[50] Oakland,[51] Philadelphia,[36] Portland (Maine),[52] Portland (Oregon),[53] Providence,[54] Salt Lake City,[55] San Francisco,[56] San Jose,[57] Santa Fe,[58] Seattle,[35] Tampa,[36] West Palm Beach,[59] and Wilton Manors[60] have issued travel bans in response to HB 1523, barring government employees from non-essential publicly funded travel to Mississippi, in a similar backlash as North Carolina experienced after its "bathroom bill".[61]

International[edit]

In April 2016, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued a warning to LGBT travellers to North Carolina and Mississippi.[62][63] The Human Rights Campaign responded that it was "both frightening and embarrassing that one of our nation's staunchest allies has warned its citizens of the risks."

On May 12, 2016, the European Union released a statement condemning the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act in Mississippi and the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act in North Carolina.[64][65]

Barber v. Bryant[edit]

Plaintiffs represented by Roberta A. Kaplan sued in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.[66] On June 27, 2016, U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves entered a permanent injunction blocking HB 1523's provision allowing county clerks to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses.[67] On June 30, 2016, hours before the law was to come into force, Judge Reeves issued a preliminary injunction blocking the rest of HB 1523.[68] In a sixty-page opinion finding that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause and the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, Judge Reeves notes HB 1523 singles out Leviticus 18 while ignoring Leviticus's other prohibitions, such as mixing wool and linens.[68] Judge Reeves further compares Governor Bryant's opposition to the Obergefell v. Hodges decision to Governor James P. Coleman’s opposition to the Brown v. Board of Education decision.[68]

On July 13, 2016, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced his office would not pursue an appeal of Judge Reeves' ruling. In a statement, Hood said, "... all HB 1523 has done is tarnish Mississippi's image while distracting us from the more pressing issues of decaying roads and bridges, underfunding of public education, the plight of the mentally ill and the need to solve our state's financial mess."[69] Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has retained the services of a private attorney, Drew Snyder, to continue the appeal in federal court using private funds.[70]

On June 23, 2017, Circuit Judge Jerry Edwin Smith wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that the Barber plaintiffs lacked standing, as they could not point to a situation in which any public or private entity had actually invoked HB 1523 to discriminate against them. Judge Reeves' injunction was therefore lifted and the law was allowed to go into effect.[71]

On January 8, 2018, the United States Supreme Court declined to review the matter.[72]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Five things to know about Mississippi's 'Religious Freedom' law that takes effect Friday". The Commercial Appeal. Retrieved 2018-09-16. 
  2. ^ a b MS HB 1523, Mississippi State Legislature, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Gunn, Philip; Arnold, William Tracy; Bounds, C. Scott; Carpenter, Lester; Gipson, J. Andrew; Shirley, William; Boyd, Randy P.; Eubanks, Dan. House Bill 1523: Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act". Mississippi House of Representatives. State of Mississippi. April 5, 2016. Accessed on April 6, 2016.
  4. ^ Allen, Samantha (2017-11-01). "The Muted Fight Against HB 1523, the Most Anti-LGBT Law in America". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2018-09-16. 
  5. ^ Judge blocks HB 1523 from starting July 1, Cassie Archebelle, WADM, July 1, 2016
  6. ^ "Victory for HB 1523, Governor as U.S. Supreme Court Declines Review". Retrieved 2018-09-16. 
  7. ^ Royals, Kate (June 29, 2015). "AG gives clerks OK for same-sex marriage licenses". The Clarion-Ledger. 
  8. ^ "Judge Invalidates Mississippi's Same-Sex Adoption Ban, the Last of Its Kind in America". Slate. 31 March 2016. 
  9. ^ "Federal judge tosses same-sex adoption ban". Mississippi Today. 31 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Kaplan, Sarah. "Mississippi's Senate just approved a sweeping 'religious liberty' bill that critics say is the worst yet for LGBT rights". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-09-17. 
  11. ^ a b Gunn, Philip; Arnold, William Tracy; Bounds, C. Scott; Carpenter, Lester; Gipson, J. Andrew; Shirley, William; Boyd, Randy P.; Eubanks, Dan. House Bill 1523: Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act". Mississippi House of Representatives. State of Mississippi. April 5, 2016. Accessed on April 6, 2016.
  12. ^ "H. B. No. 1523: House Passed As Amended". Mississippi House of Representatives. State of Mississippi. February 19, 2016.
  13. ^ "H. B. No. 1523: Senate Passed As Amended". Mississippi Senate. State of Mississippi. March 30, 2016.
  14. ^ "H. B. No. 1523: House Passed As Amended". Mississippi House of Representatives. State of Mississippi. April 1, 2016.
  15. ^ Reilly, Katie (April 12, 2016). "Mississippi Lawmakers Act to Repeal Religious Freedom Law". TIME. 
  16. ^ "Mississippi Democrats introduce bill to repeal HB 1523". WVIB.com. April 13, 2016. 
  17. ^ Geidner, Chris (27 June 2016). "Federal Judge Criticizes Mississippi Marriage Recusal Law, Will Expand Injunction". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved 5 July 2016. 
  18. ^ Green, Emma (1 July 2016). "Why Mississippi's Law on Religious rights and LGBT Discrimination Got Blocked". The Atlantic. Retrieved 5 July 2016. 
  19. ^ Tucker, Neely. "U.S. district judge strikes down Mississippi's 'religious freedom' law". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-09-20. 
  20. ^ "AG Jim Hood won't appeal HB 1523 ruling". Clarion Ledger. 14 July 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  21. ^ Bryant, Callie Daniels (2016-07-13). "MS Attorney General Hood Will Not Appeal Federal Ruling on HB 1523 - HottyToddy.com". HottyToddy.com. Retrieved 2018-09-20. 
  22. ^ Campbell, Larrison (2017-06-22). "'Religious freedom' law upheld by federal appeals court". Mississippi Today. Retrieved 2018-01-21. 
  23. ^ Lee, Anita (2018-01-08). "Supreme Court says 'no' to LGBT supporters appealing Mississippi's 'religious freedom' law". Sun Herald. Retrieved 2018-01-21. 
  24. ^ McAdoo, Larry. "In support of Mississippi House Bill 1523". The Clarion Ledger. Retrieved 2018-09-17. 
  25. ^ Perkins, Tony. "The Supreme Falsehoods of HB 1523 Opponents". FRC. Retrieved 2018-09-17. 
  26. ^ Campaign, Human Rights. "Mississippi's H.B. 1523 to Become the Worst Anti-LGBTQ State Law | Human Rights Campaign". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved 2018-09-19. 
  27. ^ Riley-Collins, Jennifer, and Zakiya Summers. "HB 1523 Hits Home." Jackson Advocate, Jun, 2016, pp. 1. ProQuest.
  28. ^ Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant Signs Law Attacking LGBT People and Families
  29. ^ "Iles, Grisham, Eubanks, Reed, Smith, Stockett, Laymon, Tartt Among 95 Mississippi Writers Opposing Anti-LGBT Law". Retrieved 2018-09-19. 
  30. ^ Wolfe, Anna (April 6, 2016). "Jackson City Council: We do not discriminate". The Clarion-Ledger. 
  31. ^ California will no longer pay for state workers to travel to anti-LGBT states
  32. ^ "The Latest: Conservative leader praises Mississippi law". Times Union. April 6, 2016. 
  33. ^ "Dayton Issues New Travel Ban Against Mississippi". CBS Local. April 6, 2016. 
  34. ^ a b "New York, Vermont ban official travel to Mississippi over LGBT law". NEWS10 ABC-22. April 6, 2016. 
  35. ^ a b "Washington state bans official travel to Mississippi". WCSH6.com. April 6, 2016. 
  36. ^ a b c Villarreal, Yezmin (April 8, 2016). "Ten U.S. Mayors Form Pro-LGBT Coalition". The Advocate. 
  37. ^ Korzius, Rachel. "Mayor Bowser Bans City-Funded Travel To Mississippi Archived 2016-04-13 at the Wayback Machine.". DCist. April 12, 2016.
  38. ^ Shah, Parth (April 18, 2016). "Madison, Dane County Ban Employee Travel To North Carolina". Wisconsin Public Radio News. 
  39. ^ Sewell, Abby (April 26, 2016). "Franklin County commissioners ban employee travel to North Carolina, Mississippi". NBC4i.com. 
  40. ^ Riley, John (April 27, 2016). "Montgomery County Council approves resolution to ban travel to anti-LGBT states". Metro Weekly. 
  41. ^ "'I'm appalled this is happening': PDX Mayor cancels trip to Mississippi over anti-gay law". KATU. April 6, 2016. 
  42. ^ Prudente, Tim (May 10, 2016). "Baltimore mayor bans government travel to N.C., Mississippi over transgender laws". The Baltimore Sun. 
  43. ^ Bajko, Matthew (April 28, 2016). "Berkeley adopts 'hate states' travel, contract ban". The Bay Area Reporter. 
  44. ^ Coolidge, Sharon (April 11, 2016). "Cincinnati set to ban government travel to N.C., Miss." Cincinnati Enquirer. 
  45. ^ Rodzinka, Paul (April 8, 2016). "Dayton Mayor bans travel to NC, Mississippi". WDTN. 
  46. ^ Hofschneider, Anita (April 7, 2016). "Honolulu Won't Fund Travel To NC, Miss". Honolulu Civil Beat. 
  47. ^ Long Beach council suspends city travel to North Carolina, Mississippi due to anti-LGBT laws
  48. ^ "Los Angeles Bars Worker Travel To North Carolina, Mississippi Over Laws". CBS Sacramento. April 15, 2016. 
  49. ^ "Miami Beach mayor sponsors resolution banning North Carolina, Mississippi travel". WPLG Local 10. April 12, 2016. 
  50. ^ "States, cities ban employee travel to Mississippi, N.C." KENS 5. April 7, 2016. 
  51. ^ "Oakland mayor on board with travel bans". Bay Area Reporter. April 7, 2016. 
  52. ^ "Portland, Maine, bans travel to Mississippi, North Carolina". Morganton News Herald. April 26, 2016. [permanent dead link]
  53. ^ "Hales cancels Mississippi trip due to anti-gay law ; No city travel to Mississippi until the anti-gay law is overturned". KOIN 6 News. April 6, 2016. 
  54. ^ McGowan, Dan (April 8, 2016). "Elorza bans employee travel to N.C., Miss. following controversial laws". WPRI 12. 
  55. ^ Harrie, Dan (April 12, 2016). "Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski bans city travel to states that have passed anti-LGBT laws". The Salt Lake Tribune. 
  56. ^ Batey, Eva (April 6, 2016). "Mayor Ed Lee Bans City-Funded Travel To Mississippi After Anti-LGBT Bill Signed By Governor". SFist. Archived from the original on April 9, 2016. 
  57. ^ Fernandez, Lisa (May 17, 2016). "San Jose Votes to Ban Government Travel to North Carolina, Mississippi". NBC Bay Area. 
  58. ^ "Santa Fe bans most travel to Mississippi, North Carolina over anti-LGBT laws". Santa Fe New Mexican. April 6, 2016. 
  59. ^ "West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio enacts city-funded travel ban to Mississippi". WPTV. April 7, 2016. Archived from the original on April 10, 2016. 
  60. ^ Barszewski, Larry (April 8, 2016). "Wilton Manors employees won't be going to North Carolina, Mississippi". Sun Sentinel. 
  61. ^ "N.C. travel-ban count mounts, now at 18 cities". 12 News. April 14, 2016. 
  62. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-36104879
  63. ^ https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/usa/local-laws-and-customs
  64. ^ http://eeas.europa.eu/statements-eeas/2016/160512_02_en.htm
  65. ^ http://www.hrc.org/blog/european-union-criticizes-anti-lgbt-laws-in-north-carolina-tennessee-and-mi
  66. ^ Geidner, Chris. "Federal Judge Halts Mississippi Anti-LGBT Law From Going Into Effect". BuzzFeed News (30 June 2016). Retrieved 5 July 2016. 
  67. ^ Geidner, Chris (27 June 2016). "Federal Judge Criticizes Mississippi Marriage Recusal Law, Will Expand Injunction". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved 5 July 2016. 
  68. ^ a b c Green, Emma (1 July 2016). "Why Mississippi's Law on Religious rights and LGBT Discrimination Got Blocked". The Atlantic. Retrieved 5 July 2016. 
  69. ^ "AG Jim Hood won't appeal HB 1523 ruling". Clarion Ledger. 14 July 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  70. ^ "Gov. Bryant appeals HB 1523 ruling alone, breaking with other defendants". Merdidan Star. 8 July 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  71. ^ Campbell, Larrison (2017-06-22). "'Religious freedom' law upheld by federal appeals court". Mississippi Today. Retrieved 2018-01-21. 
  72. ^ Lee, Anita (2018-01-08). "Supreme Court says 'no' to LGBT supporters appealing Mississippi's 'religious freedom' law". Sun Herald. Retrieved 2018-01-21. 

External links[edit]