Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer who
challenged Mississippi's gay marriage ban and won, said this week
that a “religious freedom” law might violate the federal judge's
order that struck down the marriage ban.
Earlier this month, Republican Governor
Phil Bryant signed a bill into law that protects opponents of
marriage equality. House Bill 1523, which takes effect July 1,
states that clerks may recuse themselves from issuing marriage
licenses when their “sincerely held religious beliefs” dictate
that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man
and one woman.” Such a recusal cannot “impede or delay”
marriage licensing, the law states.
“[W]e have serious concerns about
compliance with the July 2015 injunction in light of the recent
enactment of HB 1523,” Kaplan
wrote in a letter to Bryant, Attorney General Jim Hood and the
registar of vital records.
“HB 1523 is absolutely silent as to
how the right of all Mississippians who seek to legally marry,
including gay men and lesbians, will be protected under this new
Kaplan asked the officials to let her
know when any clerk plans to opt-out from issuing a marriage license
and what steps the state would take to “ensure gay and lesbian
couples are not impeded or delayed when seeking to marry.”
“Please let us know no later than May
2, 2016 whether you will comply with the above request, either in
whole or in part, so we can be in a position to evaluate whether we
will need to seek further relief from the Court,” Kaplan concludes
Kaplan also represented the plaintiff
in the 2013 Supreme Court case that struck a severe blow to the
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law that blocked federal agencies
from recognizing the legal marriages of gay couples.