A federal judge on Monday agreed with
plaintiffs challenging a Mississippi law that protects marriage
equality opponents, saying that it conflicts with the Supreme Court's
The high court last year found that gay
and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry.
Republican Governor Phil Bryant in
April signed House Bill 1523 into law. The law, which takes effect
Friday, 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.
Opponents of the law asked a federal
court to reopen the 2015 case that struck down Mississippi's marriage
ban, arguing that the new law, the Protecting Freedom of
Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, violates the
permanent injunction they secured in the case.
U.S. District Court Judge Carlton
Reeves agreed, saying that “HB 1523 significantly changes the
landscape of Mississippi's marriage licensing laws.”
Reeves, however, denied plaintiffs'
request to file an additional complaint in the case against the
He stated that the law's recusal
provision essentially allows the state to treat gay and lesbian
couples differently from straight couples.
“In [the recusal provision], the
State is permitting the differential treatment to be carried out by
individual clerks,” he
wrote. “A statewide policy has been 'pushed down' to an
individual-level policy. But the alleged constitutional infirmity is
“[T]he Supreme Court's ruling [in
Obergefell] will be
enforced,” Reeves added.
(Document provided by Equality