Tuesday, January 09, 2018

U.S. Supreme Court Leaves Intact Mississippi Anti-Gay Law

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a case arising from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that involved challenges to Mississippi's extreme license to discriminate law that places the "religious beliefs" of Christifascists over the civil rights of others.  While gays are the primary target of the legislation, its scope is so broad that many heterosexuals may to their surprise when they find themselves refused service or medical treatment.  The Supreme Court's reasoning for refusing the case was that none of the plaintiffs had yet suffered harm as a result of the law. Thus, the door is open for a future appeal by those who will no doubt suffer at the hands or religious extremists who operate businesses, serve as medical personnel or pharmacist who find gays, unwed mothers, co-habitating couples, etc. and find such things "offensive" to their beliefs.  Frighteningly, Mississippi is not the only state that has passed such "religious freedom" laws.  Indeed, such a bill was introduced in the Virginia General Assembly last year which thankfully dies.  Given that Virginia will have a Democrat for governor for the next four years the likelihood of such a bill passing anytime soon is remote.  The Advocate looks at the cowardice displayed by the Supreme Court.  Here are excerpts:
The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear challenges to Mississippi’s “license to discriminate” law, the court announced today.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit last year ruled that those who brought suit against Mississippi’s House Bill 1523, the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, did not have legal standing to challenge it because they had not actually been harmed by it, as it had yet to go into effect. It did not rule on the merits of the law. That ruling, overturning a federal district court's injunction blocking the law, allowed HB 1523, signed by Gov. Phil Bryant in 2016, to take effect in October. The Supreme Court’s decision not to review the case lets the law stand. The high court rejected the case without comment, as is the usual practice.
Two suits had challenged the law, which allows broad discrimination by businesses, nonprofits, and individuals, including government employees, if they cite religious or moral beliefs that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman”; that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage”; and that “male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.” It could allow discrimination against not only LGBT people – same-sex couples seeking wedding services, transgender people seeking medical procedures -- but single parents and any others who offend these beliefs.
The Supreme Court’s rejection of these cases does not mean an end to challenges. Now that the law is in effect, “a new round of challenges is expected from residents who have been denied service, and the issue could come back to the Supreme Court's doorstep,” NBC News reports.
Lambda Legal, which is representing plaintiffs in the Barber case, vowed to go on fighting.
“The Supreme Court’s decision not to review this case is not an endorsement of HB 1523 or the wave of similar discriminatory laws across the country, and it does not change what the court clearly ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges, and more recently in Pavan v. Smith, that same-sex couples and their families should be treated like other families in this country and not to do so is harmful and unconstitutional,” Lambda attorney Beth Littrell said in a press release.
“Twenty years ago we fought a similar battle in Colorado against an anti-LGBT law that singled out LGBT people for unequal treatment, in Romer v. Evans, and we won,” Littrell continued, referring to the Amendment 2 case. We will keep fighting in Mississippi until we overturn this harmful law, and in any state where antigay legislators pass laws to roll back LGBT civil rights. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision today leaves LGBT people in Mississippi in the cross hairs of hate and humiliation, delaying justice and equality.” She asked that anyone who suffered discrimination because of HB 1523 or feared that they would to contact the organization.
Other LGBT groups denounced the Supreme Court’s inaction. “This latest punt on LGBTQ rights by the nation’s highest court promotes state-stationed discrimination by upholding a law that allows hotels, ER doctors, business owners, and even pediatricians to legally deny services to hardworking LGBTQ families in Mississippi,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, in a press release. “While freedom of religion is a fundamental right, it should never give people the right to impose their belief on others and openly discriminate against others in the name of religious exemptions.”
“The Supreme Court’s decision not to review HB 1523 is a missed opportunity to swiftly strike down the nation’s most extreme anti-LGBTQ law,” said Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. 
The Trump/Pence regime promised Christian extremists that anti-gay judges would be appointed to the federal courts.  That promise was kept when Neil Gorsuch was placed on the Supreme Court and Trump continues to nominate extreme ideologues to the lower courts.  Every individual - including so-called "friends" - who voted for Trump/Pence bears responsibility for the harm being done to LGBT citizens.   If they feel any remorse and want any measure of forgiveness, they need to vote Democrat in November, 2018, so that the war on LGBT citizens can be lessened or halted. 

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