Controversial House Bill 1523, also known as Mississippi’s “religious freedom” bill, went into effect Tuesday, but opponents of the law have filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the law they say is “one of the most aggressive and sweeping anti-LGBT measures in the nation.”
“We are asking the Supreme Court to review this case because it is unfair and unconstitutional,” said civil rights attorney Rob McDuff. The Supreme Court still must agree to hear the case before a ruling can be made.
McDuff, along with the Mississippi Center for Jusice and Lambda Legal, filed the petition Tuesday on behalf of the plaintiffs in Barber v. Bryant. Joining in the appeal are former U.S. Solicitor General Don Verrilli and attorney Paul Smith.
HB 1523 makes it legal for business owners to refuse service to anyone based on religious beliefs, and local advocates say it directly targets LGBT people.
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The law could also affect adoptions and foster care, as well as school bathroom policies, the Associated Press reports.
A federal judge blocked HB 1523 from going into effect after it was signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant last summer.
After lengthy court battles, HB 1523 went into effect after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused a rehearing by the full court on a lawsuit attempting to block the bill.
“Just like the antigay constitutional amendments enacted in states after Lambda Legal’s victory in Lawrence v. Texas striking down sodomy laws, statutes like Mississippi’s HB 1523 are springing up across the country to defy the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling for marriage equality,” said Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation and associate legal director at Lambda Legal.
“The Supreme Court again needs to safeguard equality for LGBT Mississippians and LGBT people across the country who are experiencing another dangerous attack on their rights.”
Coast business owner Ann Madden says she will continue to fight discriminatory actions in Bay St. Louis, and so will her other friends in the city who own shops in the small artist community.
“I hope we don’t have any trouble with this law, but I can tell you if we do that this community will rally and back those who are discriminated against,” Madden told the Sun Herald last week. “We won’t stand for it.”
Molly Kester, a trans woman and president of the Mississippi Rainbow Center, said HB 1523 is a “stupid law in the first place.”
Kester, who is also a senior warden at Lighthouse Community Church, said straight allies on the Coast have really stepped up to help the LGBT community this year, and she sees that continuing in the future despite what the law says.