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Supreme Court says ‘no’ to LGBT supporters appealing Mississippi’s ‘religious freedom’ law

Rev. Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear, left, and her wife Susan Mangum are two of 11 plaintiffs challenging HB 1523 on the grounds that it violates the principle of separation of church and state contained in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Other plaintiffs include Mississippi ministers, community leaders, civic activists and a Hattiesburg church.
Rev. Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear, left, and her wife Susan Mangum are two of 11 plaintiffs challenging HB 1523 on the grounds that it violates the principle of separation of church and state contained in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Other plaintiffs include Mississippi ministers, community leaders, civic activists and a Hattiesburg church. AP

Local Mississippians gather in front of the Biloxi Visitor's Center on Friday, April 8, 2016, to protest HB 1523. The "Religious Freedom Act" allows public and private services to be denied to gay individuals and couples based on religious beliefs

The Mississippi law allowing government workers and businesses to deny services to LGBT people by claiming religious objections will stand because the U.S. Supreme Court has decided against hearing an appeal.

The court handed down the list Monday of cases it will and will not hear. The appeal, Barber v. Bryant, was on the list of cases denied certification.

The Mississippi Legislature passed House Bill 1523, with Gov. Phil Bryant's endorsement, after the high court legalized same-sex marriage in June 2015.

Legal challenges prevented the law from going into effect until October, after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided against considering an appeal of whether the law should stand.

The law was not in effect when a panel of the 5th Circuit in June denied the appeal, finding that those who appealed were unable to show HB 1523 had harmed them. The appeal was decided based on the standing to sue, not the law’s constitutionality.

Opponents still plan to challenge in the courts the constitutionality of HB 1523.

“The Supreme Court’s decision not to review this case is not an endorsement of HB 1523 or the wave of similar discriminatory laws across the country, and it does not change what the Court clearly ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges, and more recently in Pavan v. Smith, that same-sex couples and their families should be treated like other families in this country and not to do so is harmful and unconstitutional,” Beth Littrell, attorney for Lambda Legal, said in a news release.

“ . . . We will keep fighting in Mississippi until we overturn this harmful law, and in any state where anti-gay legislators pass laws to roll back LGBT civil rights. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision today leaves LGBT people in Mississippi in the crosshairs of hate and humiliation, delaying justice and equality.”

The Mississippi Center for Justice and Lambda Legal joined civil-rights attorney Rob McDuff of Jackson in filing the appeal to the Supreme Court on behalf of 11 individuals, while the Joshua Generation Metropolitan Community Church and Campaign for Southern Equality appealed the law’s constitutionality.

An argument broke out between a supporter of House Bill 1523 and a group gathered to protest the bill on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, at Jones Park in Gulfport.

HB 1523 has been a controversial topic in South Mississippi, with more business owners decrying the bill than supporting it.

In some cities like Bay St. Louis, many believe the “religious freedom” bill has become irrelevant since businesses have been vocal about opening their doors for everyone.

The law, however, was responsible for recent bad news for the Southern Miss baseball team. The Golden Eagles were set to pay three home games in February against Stony Brook university in Long Island, New York, but all non-essential state travel to Mississippi was banned by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo because of HB 1523.

Even Hollywood has weighed in on HB 1523. Most recently, Tig Notaro told Sun Herald social media editor Justin Mitchell she felt scared driving through Jackson with her wife after the bill had originally passed. Notaro was a guest on Out Here in America, a podcast by the Sun Herald and McClatchy that explores what it’s like being LGBT in the Deep South and in rural America.

Molly Kester, Danielle Savage and Dallas St. James share their experiences as trans women living in South Mississippi.

Biloxi Council says The city does not discriminate and asks state legislators to repeal HB 1523

Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @JustinMitchell_

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