Federal appeals court upholds Mississippi’s ‘religious freedom’ law

WASHINGTON — The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says Mississippi can start enforcing a law that will let merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples.

Governor Phil Bryant released a statement to WREG saying “I am pleased the Fifth Circuit has ruled to dismiss the case and allow House Bill 1523 to become law. As I have said all along, the legislation is not meant to discriminate against anyone, but simply prevents government interference with the constitutional right to exercise sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The ruling reversed a judge’s decision that had blocked the law before it could take effect last July.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves had ruled that the law unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for LGBT people.

Supporters said the law protects beliefs that marriage can be between only a man and a woman, and that a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be changed.

However, attorneys said they will try again to block the law from going into affect.

Robert McDuff is an attorney for some of the people who sued to try to block the law.

He said that within two weeks, he will either ask the entire 5th Circuit to reconsider the panel’s decision or ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block the law.

Supporters said the law protects beliefs that marriage can be between only a man and a woman.

Plaintiffs said the law gives “special protections to one side” in a religious debate.