LGBTQ community leaders, Mississippi state leaders respond to passing of HB 1523

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MISSISSIPPI -- Community members are responding to a controversial ruling out of Mississippi where a circuit court of appeals decided businesses can deny services to same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs.

The Mississippi House Bill 1523 was blocked by a judge before it went into effect last year. Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has given it approval to go into law.

LGBTQ community leaders say they’re angry House Bill 1523 has been given the green light, but they say they're not surprised.

“I can’t say I was shocked by the decision; we know where we live," said Will Batts, executive director at OUTMemphis.

The Mississippi law allows religious organizations to deny LGBT people marriage, adoption and foster care services, fire or refuse to employ them, and decline to rent or sell them property.

“It’s far-reaching; it’s more than just marriage," said Batts. "It’s just basic human equality.”

It also gives medical professionals the option to refuse to participate in treatments, counseling and surgery related to sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning.

“If you live in a small town and everybody in your town is going to deny you services, what do you do then?”

OUTMemphis is an LGBT Community Center that serves people within a 200-mile radius, which includes much of Mississippi, where it doesn’t have a CenterLink center of its own.

Proponents of the law say it protects religious freedom.

Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement he’s pleased with the court’s decision and went on to say it’s “not meant to discriminate against anyone, but simply prevents government interference with the constitutional right to exercise sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves also said he appreciates the law in a statement and that it “protects Mississippians from government interference when practicing their deeply held religious beliefs.”

However, it isn’t over yet as attorneys with the ACLU say they are going to try to block the law from going into effect again.

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