So, last Spring, Mississippi legislators and its governor voted for, and signed into law, one of those Religious Freedom Bills, AKA It’s Okay To Hate The Gays Because God Hates Fags … It Says So In The Bible bills.
The bill would allow private business owners, such as caterers, bridal shops, bakeries, dress shops and other state officials, such as public school counselors, to refuse marriage-related services to LGBT Mississippians.
But wait! Seconds before the law became law, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves literally killed it in a ruling that compared the bill directly to the state’s segregationist past, and saying the legislature was trying to write discrimination into law:
"Religious freedom was one of the building blocks of this great nation, and after the nation was torn apart, the guarantee of equal protection under law was used to stitch it back together. But HB 1523 does not honor that tradition of religious freedom, nor does it respect the equal dignity of all of Mississippi’s citizens."
Naturally, opponents of the law are rejoicing this weekend, while supporters cried out that the bill had nothing to do with discrimination, but was passed to protect their religious freedoms; freedoms which have never been threatened, mind you.
In Mississippi, and everywhere in this country, you can believe whatever you choose — I, for one, believe the universe is run by my cat Tuxedo — but you cannot, cannot, use your faith to deny goods and services to people.
But HB 1523 singled out three "sincerely held" religious beliefs as worthy of protection:
that marriage is between one man and one woman;
that people should not have sex outside such marriages;
that a person’s gender is set at birth.
In addition, the law protects from litigation anyone who speaks out against gay marriage or transgender individuals because of these beliefs. So, yeah, that whole “it’s not at all about discrimination” line is just a lie; it’s about using religion to tell people what to do.
Religion is not a weapon.
Supporters are hoping that Reeve’s decision is appealed to the fifth circuit, but Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has not said whether he’ll take that on.
But let’s end with a cheer for Judge Reeves, for this ruling was the second time this week he ruled against HB 1523. In a separate decision last Monday, he struck down the part of the law that allowed clerks to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and now this latest ruling invalidates every single bit of the Hate Bill by arguing that it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment which prohibit government from favoring one religion over another and one group of citizens over another.
It’s that simple. Maybe now Mississippi will get it?