Two court hearings may set path for Mississippi’s “Religious Freedom” law

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves will hear oral arguments Monday in Jackson on reopening a 2014 lawsuit that overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Thursday and Friday, Reeves will consider a separate lawsuit filed June 10 challenging the “Religious Freedom” bill.

The Campaign for Southern Equality was a plaintiff in both suits, which are among four actions seeking to prevent the July 1 implementation of HB 1523, as the “Religious Freedom” bill is known.

The controversial measure allows Mississippi businesses and government officials to decline services to same-sex couples if doing so would violate their personal beliefs. Supporters, including Gov. Phil Bryant, say the law merely protects those with strongly held religious views, while critics say it’s an attempt to bypass the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last summer affirming same-sex marriage.

Roberta Kaplan, an attorney for the Campaign for Southern Equality, said she expects Monday’s hearing to focus only on information plaintiffs have requested about county clerks who might choose to recuse themselves to avoid issuing a marriage license to same-sex couples.

“We just don’t know at this point if there might be a showdown when the law goes into effect,” Kaplan said. “That’s why we want more information on how that process works.”

Commercial Appeal