It's been over two months since Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed the state's overly broad "religious liberty" bill into law, but neither he nor the bill has been able to rest easy. On June 10, the Rev. Susan Hrostowski and The Campaign for Southern Equality filed a lawsuit against the governor and other state officials, stating that the law is unconstitutional. This is the third lawsuit leveled against the law in two months —joining suits brought by the Mississippi Center for Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union.
HB 1523, which goes into effect on July 1, could allow a range of individuals, corporations, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations—including those that receive taxpayer funding to perform social services—to refuse to provide goods and services to same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage and their families. It's these broad parameters that make the law unconstitutional.
“Calling this a freedom-of-conscience or a protection-of-religious-beliefs law is a red herring—those protections already exist," said Americans United's Litigation Fellow Bradley Girard about HB 1523. "Instead, this law allows a staggering breadth of discrimination. Unfortunately for Governor Bryant, but fortunately for many Mississippians, the Constitution does not.”
Americans United has opposed Mississippi's "religious liberty" bill since it was introduced in February, and we are pleased to see that the legislation continues to be contested every step of the way. These continuing efforts against HB 1523 and other harmful pieces of legislation show that the battle is not over when a bad bill is signed into law— it is just beginning. And while lawmakers try to make it easier to use religion to discriminate, Americans United will fight in the state houses and the court rooms to protect our neighbors.