Mississippi is defending its controversial “religious freedom” law in federal appeals court.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves halted the law before it took effect.

Republican Governor Phil Bryant, who signed House Bill 1523 into law, is defending the legislation on his own after Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood declined to appeal Reeves' ruling. Private attorneys, including some from the Christian conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, are handling the appeal.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case on Monday.

Mississippi's Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act allows businesses to deny services to LGBT people based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.” It also seeks to provide similar protections to individuals who object to transgender rights.

Attorney Roberta Kaplan, who represented Edith Windsor at the Supreme Court in the case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is the lead attorney for plaintiffs.

“The entire point of the religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment is to protect the religious beliefs of all Americans, not just the views of some Americans, or even the views of the majority of Americans," Roberta Kaplan said in a statement. "By enshrining three specific, anti-gay religious beliefs not held by all religions or religious people in Mississippi law, and by giving Mississippians who hold those beliefs an absolute exemption from a wide variety of otherwise generally-applicable laws and regulations, HB 1523 flies in the face of this long and cherished constitutional tradition."

Kevin Theriot of Alliance Defending Freedom said that the law protects Mississippians who believe that marriage is solely a heterosexual union.

“Americans shouldn't have to live in fear of government punishment simply for affirming marriage as a man-woman union,” Theriot said in a statement. "Good laws like Mississippi's protect freedom and harm no one. Those challenging this law want to restrict freedom and impose their beliefs on others by ensuring dissenters are left open to the government discrimination that has already occurred in states without protective laws like this one."