/Judge rules clerks must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Judge rules clerks must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves issued Monday’s ruling in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant I, calling House Bill1523 “the State’s end run around Obergefell.” In Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in the United States last year. “Mississippi may have differences with Obergefell and they may voice their disagreements as they see fit, such as by advocating for a constitutional change to overturn the decision. Judge Reeves stated in his opinion that the marriage license issue would not be re-examined after each legislative session. This ruling prohibits county clerks refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay or lesbian couples. However, it does not address any other aspects in House Bill 1523 which went into effect July 1. Private business owners such as caterers and other state officials such as public school counselors can still refuse to provide marriage-related services to transgender Mississippians. This ruling is a blow to House Bill 1523 supporters who believe it weakens a law that they said was essential for protecting many Christians’ religious beliefs in the state. “If the opinion of the federal court denies even one Mississippian their fundamental right to practise their religion, then all Mississippians will be denied their 1st Amendment Rights,” stated Lt. Governor. Tate Reeves is one of the bill’s most vocal supporters. “I hope that the state’s lawyers will quickly appeal this decision at the 5th Circuit in order to protect the deeply held religiosities of all Mississippians.” Attorney general Jim Hood stated that he will wait and see how Judge Reeves rules on two other lawsuits challenging the “religious liberty” law before deciding whether to appeal. Hood stated that he expects other Court rulings to clarify whether or not the law will be in effect before the law takes effect on July 1. Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1503 in April. It protects three “sincerely held” religious beliefs: That marriage is between one man, one woman; that people shouldn’t have sex outside of such marriages; that gender is determined at birth. Anyone who believes their religious beliefs prevent them from being a part of sex-related marriages is protected by the law. The law applies to photographers, DJs, and wedding florists. However, the most common example is that county clerks refuse to issue licenses. Campaign for Southern Equality I was the second of four legal challenges against House Bill 1523. All of them were brought before Judge Reeves. Reeves rejected the request for a preliminary order in the ACLU vs. Judy Moulder lawsuit last week. Reeves heard the other two challenges, Campaign for Southern Equality III v. Bryant III, and Barber v. Bryant on Thursday and Friday. These cases seek a preliminary order to prevent the law’s implementation on July 1. Attorneys said that they expect Judge Reeves will rule on them later in the week. Campaign for Southern Equality I, unlike the three other lawsuits that deal with the “religious freedom law” in its entirety, only one section is being addressed. This case involves county clerks. Instead of filing a new lawsuit, plaintiffs requested that the court reopen their 2015 case and extend the Permanent Injunction which invalidated the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to House Bill 1523. Roberta Kaplan is the lead attorney in both Campaign for Southern Equality lawsuits. She said that this ruling was a positive sign for their next lawsuit. Kaplan stated that Judge Reeves made it clear that he plans to enforce his injunction that gay couples have the right to marry legally in Mississippi. She said, “Today’s decision does not diminish our confidence in the Establishment Clause claim.” She was pleased Monday’s decision. However, Kaplan stated that Campaign for Southern Equality III and Barber V. Bryant will determine whether House Bill 1523 survives or not. Kaplan stated that today’s appetizer is the equivalent to the pimento cheese dip. “The fried chicken and ribs are coming later this week.” In his ruling, Judge Reeves chastised the state, saying that leaving the decision of whether to issue licenses up to county clerks was essentially passing the buck on discrimination.|Judge Reeves criticised the state for leaving the decision about whether to issue licenses to the county clerks, blaming them for discrimination.} “In 2016, Mississippi responded in kind to Obergefell, creating a new system to treat identical-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples. Reeves stated in his decision that the county employees are now entitled to differential treatment. Reeves acknowledged, however, that the permanent injunction last year had only designated the Hinds County Clerk. Reeves ruled that he would open the case again to allow the parties to work out how to notify the other 81 county Clerks that the Permanent injunction is applicable to them.