Fifth Circuit Unleashes Anti-LGBT Mississippi Law, HB 1523

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June 22, 2017

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the injunction against Mississippi House Bill 1523, the discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation challenged in Barber v. Bryant, the federal lawsuit brought by Mississippi civil rights attorney Robert McDuff, the Mississippi Center for Justice and Lambda Legal.

The advocates will continue to fight this discriminatory law.

Overruling the lower court decision, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit denied that LGBT Mississippians are subject to imminent discrimination by HB 1523 and ordered the block to the law lifted because the plaintiffs — a church, a group of ministers, LGBT residents, community leaders and activists — lack standing since they cannot claim a specific harm caused by the law that has yet to go into effect. 

“We had to put guards in front of our church after the bill initially passed because there was a truck with a swastika parked across the street and just this week the Christian Knights of the KKK distributed flyers throughout the Hattiesburg area. Today’s ruling leaves us more exposed, so we will have to be more vigilant than ever before to protect our church, our families and our dignity,” said Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear, Barber plaintiff. 

“We believe the Fifth Circuit panel is wrong and intend to seek further review, perhaps from the full Fifth Circuit and definitely from the United States Supreme Court,” said Mississippi civil rights attorney Rob McDuff.

“People should not have to live through discrimination in order to challenge this obviously unconstitutional bill," McDuff added. "Even though the injunction has been reversed for now, I am pleased that we were able to stop the bill from being implemented thus far. Hopefully, our efforts to seek further review will prevent it from going into effect in the future.”

HB 1523 violates a fundamental American value and strikes at the very heart of our work towards a fairer and more just state,” said Beth Orlansky, advocacy director for the Mississippi Center for Justice. “This law is discriminatory, and we will do everything we can to prevent it from causing any more harm. By promoting a law that singles out a particular group for discriminatory treatment, the State of Mississippi sends a message to the rest of the country that not everyone is welcome in the ‘Hospitality State.’”

“Like anti-LGBT laws enacted in North Carolina and Texas, Mississippi’s HB 1523 has fueled a toxic environment of fear and prejudice in the state. This wave of anti-LGBT laws popping up in state houses across the country comes in defiance of the Supreme Court’s ruling for marriage equality — as measures to put LGBT people 'back in their place.' But we will continue to fight in Mississippi and everywhere else discrimination rears its ugly head to ensure that LGBT people everywhere are respected and protected from discrimination,” said Beth Littrell, Counsel at Lambda Legal.

“This is not the end of the road for us," Littrell added. "The Court’s ruling today is not an endorsement of the law, but a deferment to see the discrimination HB 1523 will cause. The court has said that LGBT people must endure more suffering before it believes in the damage that this law causes. If you have experienced discrimination, please contact our help desk and let us know.” 

HB 1523 sets forth a list of discriminatory actions that certain individuals and entities could take against Mississippians based on religious and so-called “moral” objections to the existence of transgender people, marriages of same-sex couples and non-marital sexual relationships, without consequence from the State.

The law was enacted in April 2016 in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision granting marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.

Last June, federal district court judge Carlton Reeves of Jackson issued a preliminary injunction preventing HB 1523 from taking effect.