ACLU files lawsuit over Mississippi anti-LGBT law
By Letitia Stein and Colleen Jenkins
(Reuters) – The American Civil Liberties Union said it filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday to block a Mississippi law allowing people to deny wedding services to same-sex couples based on religious objections.
The lawsuit seeks a court injunction to stop the law from taking effect on July 1. The ACLU said the measure discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and is unconstitutional following a U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year that legalized same-sex marriage.
The ACLU of Mississippi is suing on behalf of state residents Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas, a gay couple engaged to be married.
“At a time when we’re supposed to be excited as a couple engaged to be married, this law permits discrimination against us simply because of who we are,” they said in a statement released by the ACLU.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, a Republican, last month signed into law the wide-reaching measure, which supporters called necessary to protect businesses and individuals seeking to exercise their religious views.
“The ACLU continues its mission of trying to use the federal court system to push its liberal agenda,” Bryant said in a statement responding to the lawsuit. “Instead of cherry-picking causes popular with the radical left, the ACLU should allocate its resources defending all civil liberties.”
The ACLU lawsuit for procedural purposes names one state official, Judy Moulder, the state’s registrar of vital records, as a defendant. She could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mississippi is among a handful of southern U.S. states on the front lines of legal battles over equality, privacy and religious freedom.
In March, North Carolina became the first state to bar people from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity. State officials on Monday sued the U.S. Justice Department for challenging its law on public restroom access.
The far-reaching Mississippi law also clears the way for employers to cite religion in determining workplace policies on dress code, grooming and bathroom and locker access.
In a media release, the ACLU said that Mississippi law could impact people in sexual relationships outside of a heterosexual marriage. While the initial challenge is focused on the provisions pertaining to marriage, the organization said in a statement that it planned to fight the other provisions.
“We won’t rest until every last piece of this law is struck down and all LGBT people in Mississippi have equal justice under the law,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Josh Block in a statement.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C. and Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla.; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown)