The Campaign for Southern Equality and the Reverend Susan Hrostowski are two of the plaintiffs filing lawsuits against Mississippi House Bill 1523, currently slated to become law on July 1, according to an Associated Press story in the Chicago Tribune:
The law will allow clerks to cite religious objections to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It says those who recuse themselves must find another employee to issue the license, but legislators did not say what would happen if all employees in a particular clerk’s office decline to help same-sex couples.
State attorneys say the law is a reasonable accommodation to protect religious beliefs, but opponents say it sanctions discrimination.
The Episcopal priest-backed suit states that the bill
“rather than respect that all men (and women) are created equal, declares that certain people — only those who hold particular state-defined religious beliefs — should have special rights and privileges. Even worse, it allows them to exercise those special rights and privileges in derogation of the fundamental equality and dignity of a politically unpopular minority group.”
That suit and a second will be heard tomorrow and Friday by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, who has responded to one suit so far, from the ACLU of Mississippi by refusing the stop the bill.
The Mississippi Center for Justice filed one of the suits June 3 for a diverse group of gay and straight plaintiffs. It says the law violates the separation of church and state by favoring “certain narrow religious beliefs that condemn same-sex couples who get married, condemn unmarried people who have sexual relations and condemn transgender people.”
The ACLU suit was brought “”on behalf of same-sex couple Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas of Meridian, who have been engaged for nearly two years,” says the Clarion Ledger.
Alford and Thomas called HB 1523 “a slap in the face.”
“It makes us feel like second-class citizens,” Alford said of the law last month. “You should serve the entire public.”
Reeves said in a four-page order that “Because injunctions regulate future conduct, the plaintiff must allege and ultimately prove a real and immediate — as opposed to a merely conjectural or hypothetical — threat of future injury.”
Reeves said the motion for a preliminary injunction fails because the plaintiffs haven’t shown the injury is imminent.
“None of the plaintiffs are at imminent risk of injury,” Reeves said. “Alford and Thomas’ injury, if one exists, would arise when they apply for a marriage license. But they declare that they will apply for a marriage license sometime within the next three years. That is not imminent.”
The bill can be found online here.