/Same-sex marriage judge draws all three ‘religious freedom’ lawsuits

Same-sex marriage judge draws all three ‘religious freedom’ lawsuits

The federal court assigned lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Mississippi Center for Justice, to Judge Carlton Reeves on Friday. Reeves was overseeing a lawsuit filed by the Campaign for Southern Equality. It is challenging House Bill1523 and filing a motion for reopening the case Reeves decided last year. According to attorneys familiar with the lawsuits, although Reeves’ passionate decision overturning the gay marriage ban made him national news and earned him a reputation for being a champion of gay rights, Reeves was actually responsible for assigning all three lawsuits. Matt Steffey (a Mississippi College of Law professor and constitutional law expert) stated that “I believe the naive belief judges do their best in following the law, given all the facts before them.” It doesn’t make sense for three judges to be researching the same topic; it’s not a good use of judicial resources. Gov. Phil Bryant signed the “religious liberty” law last month. It protects three religious beliefs that the state considers important: one man and one lady are married; people shouldn’t have sex with anyone else; and that a person is born gendered. Anyone who refuses to provide services to transgender people, gays or lesbians is protected by law. While Reeves’s previous ruling in the gay marriage case did not likely influence the court’s decision that the other two cases be sent to him, Steffi stated that his past experience with the case may have. According to Rob McDuff (co-counsel in the Mississippi Center for Justice lawsuit), “Transferring all of the cases to someone who is at minimum familiar with at least some issues involved ought to increase the efficiency, so that judge may get a head start in understanding some law and it may enable matters to proceed quickly, uniformly to the decision.” Multiple cases that challenge the same law are often transferred to the same Judge so they don’t conflict. There is a possibility for three different results if three lawsuits are brought before three different judges. “All the judges involved in these cases were good judges. McDuff stated that they were all likely to have agreed since Reeves was familiar with the issue having presided over the case on marriage. He therefore made sense to hear all the 1523 challenges. The ACLU sued Judge Daniel Jordan in the beginning, while the Mississippi Center for Justice suit went to Judge Tom Lee. McDuff also said that the court sends similar cases to the judge who is overseeing the oldest case. McDuff says that although the ACLU filed their lawsuit one day prior to the Campaign for Southern Equality’s, it is based on the 2014 gay marriage suit. The timeline can be accelerated by having the lawsuits sent to the same judge. The ACLU and Mississippi Center for Justice both seek an injunction to stop the law’s implementation on July 1. McDuff stated that he believes the process will move quickly. “I expect that the judge will hold a hearing sometime in this month and that we’ll have a ruling before July 1.”