A Mississippi judge issued a last-minute ruling that blocked a state law from going into effect that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to a customer based on a “sincerely-held religious belief.”
In other words, denying service based on homophobia would be legal.
U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves issued late Thursday night a 60-page ruling on Friday that called the law known as HB 1523 as allowing “state-sanctioned discrimination.” HB 1523 had been set to go into effect at Friday at midnight.
“There are almost endless explanations for how the legislation condones discrimination against the LGBT community, but in its simplest terms it denies LGBT citizens equal protection under the law,” Reeves wrote in his decision.
Reeves had earlier this week struck down parts of the law that allowed for marriage licenses to be denied, but he did not rule then about allowing private businesses to deny services.
The law had been signed in April by Gov. Phil Bryant, who insisted in a statement at the time that it did not “limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws.”
HB 1523’s legality was challenged by a group of LGBTQ activists, religious officials and other Mississippi residents, who said it violated their constitutional rights. Legal scholars have called the law "blatantly unconstitutional."
Bryant said Friday he would fight to appeal Reeves’ decision.
“We’re certainly celebrating in the moment,” said one of the plaintiffs, Susan Hrostowski, to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. “But we have to wait and see what the governor does.”
Despite Bryant’s support, Mississippi’s Attorney General, Jim Hood said HB 1523 and its supporters “misled” pastors into thinking they would have to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, according to the Clarion-Ledger. Hood, who was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, told the Clarion-Ledger that he would “hate to see politicians continue to prey on people who pray, go to church, follow the law and help their fellow man.”
The victory in Mississippi comes after months of backlash toward the state, including Britain issuing a travel advisory for LGBTQ tourists.
In North Carolina, a transphobic law known as the "bathroom bill" that insists people can only use the bathroom with the gender listed on their birth certificate has been challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice.