JACKSON, MS — On September 29th, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling denying a hearing in lawsuits challenging Mississippi’s House Bill 1523. HB1523 is an extreme law that empowers state officials, employees, and private individuals to legally cite anti-LGBTQ religious views as an excuse for discrimination. The law is scheduled to go into effect on October 6, 2017.  

HB1523 specifically allows Mississippians with anti-LGBTQ beliefs to refuse service to married same-sex couples, people who have sex outside of marriage, and transgender people. Under this unprecedented religious refusal law, Mississippi state employees could refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, public school counselors could turn away LGBTQ or questioning youth in crisis, and health care providers could deny transgender people access to healthcare at any time, among just a few examples of potential discrimination.

The ACLU of Mississippi, Campaign for Southern Equality, Freedom for All Americans, Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign, Mississippi Center for Justice, Mississippi Rising Coalition, and The Spectrum Center of Hattiesburg, MS released the following joint statement:

“HB1523 is the nation’s most extreme anti-LGBTQ law. It will bring undeniable damage to the lives of thousands of Mississippians, paving the way for deep harm and discrimination. As a community, we will fight this law every step of the way. We stand proudly with LGBTQ Mississippians in working to ensure that everyone can live their lives free from fear of state-sanctioned discrimination. We stand ready to challenge discrimination in all forms and will bring lawsuits against those who discriminate against their LGBTQ neighbors and fellow Mississippians."

Mississippi is home to 60,000 LGBT adults and an estimated 11,400 transgender youth and adults, according to 2016 data published by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. The state is also home to 3,500 same-sex couples, 29 percent of whom are raising children—the highest rate in the nation.

The legal team behind Barber v. Bryant,one of the lawsuits challenging HB1523, is seeking review of the Fifth Circuit’s decision in the United States Supreme Court.

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