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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 1, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 27
Mississippi officials can't 'opt out' of same-sex marriage, court says
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Mississippi officials can't 'opt out' of same-sex marriage, court says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A federal judge in Mississippi has blocked a state law allowing officials to 'opt out' of authorizing same-sex marriages.

US District Judge Carlton Reeves issued an injunction on June 27 blocking Mississippi's HB 1523, one of many so-called 'religious freedom' laws passed in the wake of the US Supreme Court's Obergefell decision.

The law, which was set to come into effect next month, said that 'any person employed or acting on behalf of the state government who has authority to authorize or license marriages, including, but not limited to, clerks, registers of deeds, or their deputies, may seek recusal from authorizing or licensing lawful marriages based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.'

HB 1523 'significantly changes the landscape of Mississippi's marriage licensing laws' and 'amends Mississippi's marriage licensing regime in such a way as to conflict with Obergefell,' the judge ruled.

Reeves noted that in 2015 his court had addressed 'whether the Fourteenth Amendment permitted a State to treat same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples with respect to the issuance and recognition of marriage licenses.

'Today's motion concerns the same issue,' he added. 'In [HB 1523], the State is permitting the differential treatment to be carried out by individual clerks.

'A statewide policy has been 'pushed down' to an individual-level policy. But the alleged constitutional infirmity is the same.'

Reeves also warned Mississippi state legislators that he was losing patience with their attempts at an end run around the Obergefell decision.

'Mississippi's elected officials may disagree with Obergefell, of course, and may express that disagreement as they see fit,' Reeves wrote, 'by advocating for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision, for example. But the marriage license issue will not be adjudicated anew after every legislative session.'

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