Obama-appointed judge strikes down Mississippi’s religious freedom law
July 6, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – An Obama-appointed judge has struck down a Mississippi law designed to protect the consciences of individuals who have a religious objection to participating in same-sex “marriages.”
Republican Governor Phil Bryant signed the "Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act" (H.B. 1523) in April.
The bill codified First Amendment protections into state law by stating that judges and clerks who have a deeply held religious objection to participating in a wedding ceremony for homosexuals did not have to take part in it, but another state employee without such an objection would take his place.
The state could not force religious organizations to hire “an individual whose conduct or religious beliefs are inconsistent with those of the religious organization” or take facilitate adoption or foster care that would place children with homosexual couples.
Schools and privately held businesses could restrict “access to restrooms, spas, baths, showers...or other intimate facilities” to members of the same biological sex. And individuals could refuse to participate in gender reassignment services on the grounds of religious conscience.
“I am signing H.B. 1523 into law to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations, and private associations from discriminatory actions from state government or its political subdivisions,” Gov. Bryant said in a statement released that day.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, who was appointed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi by Barack Obama in 2010, enjoined the bill on June 30, one day before it was to take effect.
Reeves, who once served on the board of the ACLU, sided with the ACLU in striking down the statute.
In a 60-page opinion, Reeves lambasted the law as little more than an “attempt to put LGBT citizens back in their place.”
“The judge's religious animus against the people of Mississippi is as clear as day,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “Under this judge's reasoning, any narrowly tailored conscience or religious freedom protections against government persecution would be invalid.”
Others found Reeves' actions predictably hostile.
"What do you expect from a former ACLU attorney appointed to the bench by President Obama? Judges need to put aside their ideology and be impartial, but many judges today pass off their personal opinions in place of the Constitution," said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. "Religious liberty must be protected and is the reason for the founding of America.”
Reeves previously invalidated the state's marriage protection statute, branding it “state-sanctioned prejudice” that subjects homosexuals to “second-class citizenship.”
“Though we cherish our traditional values, they must give way to constitutional wisdom,” he wrote in his 72-page decision in 2014.
Gov. Bryant said he looks forward to an “aggressive appeal” on H.B. 1523.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves agreed, “I hope the state’s attorneys will quickly appeal this decision to the 5th Circuit to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of all Mississippians.”
The Family Research Council, which honored Gov. Bryant after he bucked the trend of other governors in signing the bill, commended “Mississippi's elected leaders for standing up for the freedom of their citizens to believe and live according to those beliefs. No person should be punished by the government with crippling fines or face disqualification for simply believing what President Obama believed just a few years ago, that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”