Late last Thursday night, Judge Carlton Reeves, United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, entered a 60-page order striking down HB 1523, Mississippi’s controversial “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.” As discussed in our past posts, Tale of Several Lawsuits: Filings in North Carolina and Mississippi Regarding Gender Identity Laws and Bathrooms, Cakes, Wedding Poetry and DJs—Delving Into the North Carolina and Mississippi Laws on Transgender Issues, the bill protected entities making employment and service decisions if they were acting under certain sincere religious beliefs or moral convictions. The law was challenged by numerous individuals, businesses and even churches as violating the United States Constitution. One of those challengers sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the law from going into force on July 1. Late on June 30, Judge Reeves granted that request.
Judge Reeves found that the law violated both the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment. By only protecting certain types of religious thought, the state was endorsing some religions while alienating others. Judge Reeves also found that the law effectively treated citizens differently, which violates the Fourteenth Amendment. The opinion goes through the history of how the law was enacted and also looks at Mississippi’s past history on civil rights.
Mississippi’s Attorney General has not yet determined whether he will appeal the ruling.