One of the major fears the change of power between the Obama administration and the Trump administration has brought on is what it would do to the progress that was made in the LGBTQIA community. With the most recent ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the fears of millions of Americans could be realized.
The New York Times reported:
‘A federal appeals court on Thursday lifted an injunction on a Mississippi law that grants private individuals and government workers far-reaching abilities to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on religious grounds…’
That law was passed and signed into law by Governor Phil Bryant back in 2016. Not surprisingly, he’s Republican. The Times noted it is one of the “most aggressive” responses conservatives countered after SCOTUS legalized same-sex marriage.
They noted the law would allow anyone who holds “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” to refuse to provide services to LGBTQIA people. Though it may seem that it’s just a way for clerks to get out of issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, the law could be far reaching and allow discrimination in all settings of life including schools, housing, family services, and other settings.
Columbia University wrote a legal analysis of the law that described the dangers behind the law.
‘Thus HB 1523 allows religious faith to always trump other private rights, including the right to be free from invidious discrimination, without considering how religious liberty claims might be balanced against the rights of other Mississippians and other important state interests.’
Furthermore the analysis found that the law would also protect a discriminator from “disciplinary action” for actions such as instituting “sex-specific policies” regarding dress, grooming, and bathroom usage.
Basically, the law would allow someone who “sincerely” believed gay people were the devil to discriminate in any way they choose.
However, the law could also be applied to other issues that aren’t necessarily related to the LGBTQIA community. For example, the analysis detailed:
‘A state-funded domestic violence shelter could refuse to house or hire single parents due to its religious beliefs about premarital sex, and the government will be unable to withdraw its support.’
So, the law actually goes further than discriminating the evil gays. It allows anyone to discriminate against someone based on religious objections for anything.
For example, a follower of the Church of God denomination owns a business. The most stringent worshiper would believe wearing jewelry is a no no. Furthermore, no make up. Also, no alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, gluttony, etc. Also, they hold the belief that divorce is only justified when one spouse has been unfaithful.
Applying those facts to a real life situation, we have Cindy Lou. Cindy Lou gets a job. Cindy Lou has just divorced her husband because he was verbally abusive towards her. She loves make up and jewelry. On Fridays, she likes to have a few drinks and occasionally after work a glass of wine. The business owner finds out about Cindy Lou’s transgressions. He fires her. He would be wholly protected by the Mississippi law for his “sincerely held belief.”
There was relief within the community after an injunction on the law was ordered by a federal judge who found that it violated the First and 14th Amendments.
However, that injunction was overturned after the three-judge panel found that the plaintiffs had not suffered any injury underneath the law. In the ruling, the judges wrote:
‘None of these plaintiffs has clearly shown an injury-of-fact, so none has standing.’
Basically, the panel would rather respond to an injury rather than prevent it from happening. However, the advocacy director of the Mississippi Center for Justice responded to the ruling ensuring they would not be giving up on their fight.
‘This law is discriminatory… and we will do everything we can to prevent it from causing any more harm.’
Of course, Governor Bryant was happier than a pig in slop. He commented:
‘As I have said all along, the legislation is not meant to discriminate against anyone, but simply prevents government interference with the constitutional right to exercise sincerely held religious beliefs.’
It’s important to note that the panel of judges did not find the law was unconstitutional. They simply found no one had been injured by the law. So, there is still hope for this bill being defeated. However, it’s depressing and discouraging to see a panel of judges make such a ruling. The law instilled fear into plenty of LGBTQIA individuals, which could be considered mental terrorism. Thus, it did cause injury. Imagine sitting up at night unable to sleep because you are worried your Christian boss may find out you are in love with someone of the same sex.
Featured Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images.