US Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuits against Mississippi religious liberty law

(Wikimedia Commons/Daderot)Supreme Court building, Washington, DC, USA.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear two cases challenging a Mississippi law that allows religious organizations and private businesses to refuse to provide services that conflict with their sincere religious beliefs.

LGBT groups had challenged Mississippi's "Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act," which is aimed at protecting the rights of those who believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, as well as those who believe that gender is determined at birth and sexual relations are reserved for married couples.

According to Washington Times, the law, also known as H.B. 1523, prohibits the state of Mississippi from filing discrimination complaints against organizations or individuals that make decisions based on moral and religious beliefs about sexuality. Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill into law in April 2016 and it went into effect in October last year.

A part of H.B. 1523 was struck down by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in June 2016, but the rest of the law was left intact. The judge ruled that all 82 county clerks must issue same-sex marriage licenses to gay couples despite their religious beliefs, arguing that an opt-out would contradict the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges.

The state appealed the ruling and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated Reeves' injunction in June 2017, saying the complainants do not have the legal standing to sue because they were not able to demonstrate any actual harm created by the law.

The Fifth Circuit ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case on Monday.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot issued a statement celebrating the Supreme Court's decision not to review the case.

"The 5th Circuit was right to find that those opposing this law haven't been harmed and, therefore, can't try to take it down," Theriot said.

"Because of that, we are pleased that the Supreme Court declined to take up these baseless challenges, which misrepresented the law's sole purpose of ensuring that Mississippians don't live in fear of losing their careers or their businesses simply for affirming marriage as a husband-wife union," he added.

Masen Davis, CEO of the LGBTQ advocacy organization Freedom for All Americans, described the high court's decision as a "missed opportunity to swiftly strike down the nation's most extreme anti-LGBTQ law."

"The Court's inaction today means that LGBTQ Mississippians will continue to face harassment and discrimination. HB 1523 fails to honor the tradition of religious freedom in America — instead, it allows people to use religion as a license to discriminate," he went on to say.

Despite the high court decision, LGBT groups such as Lambda Legal have expressed their intentions to file a constitutional challenge against the law in courts.

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