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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 13, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 20
ACLU sues Mississippi over 'religious freedom to discriminate' law
Section One
ALL STORIES
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ACLU sues Mississippi over 'religious freedom to discriminate' law

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The ACLU and the ACLU of Mississippi filed suit on May 9, challenging a Mississippi law that allows public officials and businesses to use 'religious freedom' as justification to refuse service to LGBT individuals.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas, a Gay couple who are engaged to be married and face discrimination as a result of this law. Members of the ACLU of Mississippi also joined the suit as plaintiffs.

Alford and Thomas have been engaged for nearly two years. They describe the law, also known as HB 1523, as 'a slap in the face.'

'When HB 1523 passed, it was heartbreaking because it takes away our chance to finally be treated equally,' the couple said in a statement.

'At a time when we're supposed to be excited as a couple engaged to be married, this law permits discrimination against us simply because of who we are. This is not the Mississippi we're proud to call home. We're hopeful others will come to realize this and not allow this harmful measure to become law.'

According to the ACLU, 'HB 1523 directly contradicts the Supreme Court's ruling by treating the marriages of same-sex couples differently than the marriages of everyone else.'

Signed into law by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant on April 5, HB 1523 protects three beliefs or convictions:

o that marriage is between a man and a woman,

o that sex is 'properly reserved to such a marriage,'

o and that words like 'male' and 'female' are 'objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at birth.'

The law allows state employees to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, religious organizations to fire LGBT employees, and health professionals to decline to provide counseling or some medical services to LGBT patients.

'We're stepping up to fight this sweeping anti-LGBT and unconstitutional law that authorizes discrimination against gay and transgender people,' said ACLU Staff Attorney Josh Block.

'HB 1523 has no rightful place in Mississippi or in our history books, and we're hopeful this lawsuit can stop as much of it as possible before it goes into effect. We won't rest until every last piece of this law is struck down and all LGBT people in Mississippi have equal justice under the law.'

'The ACLU stands firmly against discrimination in all forms,' said ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer Riley-Collins. All citizens deserve the right to be treated equally regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The ACLU of Mississippi will continue to work to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the U.S. Constitution guarantees everyone in this country.'

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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:
ACLU-WA Deputy Legal Director Jennifer Shaw
I-1515 is illegal, ACLU attorney says

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