NEW ORLEANS – The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a preliminary injunction granted to plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that challenged the state of Mississippi’s Religious Liberty Accommodations Act (HB 1523), according to a statement from the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Paxton and officials in eight other states voiced their support of the Mississippi law in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in November 2016.
The 5th Circuit reversed the preliminary judgment in a June 22 ruling. The injunction was issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.
According to the circuit court order, the plaintiffs argued that the law was unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
“Plaintiffs assert they are injured by the ‘clear message’ sent by HB 1523 that the ‘state government disapproves of and is hostile to same-sex couples, to unmarried people who engage in sexual relations, and to transgender people,’” the circuit court ruling said.
Under HB 1523, “The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against persons who act in accordance with certain beliefs in an enumerated set of circumstances.”
The court said the law pertains to “religious beliefs or moral convictions” that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and male (man) or female (woman) refers to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”
According to the Paxton statement, “the law protects the freedom of conscience for faith-based adoption and foster care providers, protects conscience rights of state employees who may refuse to license marriages and protects individuals who decline to provide certain medical services.”
In its order, the 5th Circuit Court said the plaintiffs were unable to prove that they were harmed by the law to an extent that would require the court to rule it unconstitutional.
“The failure of the Barber plaintiffs to assert anything more than a general stigmatic injury dooms their claim to standing...,” the Circuit Court wrote.
Paxton applauded the circuit court’s decision.
“I’m grateful that the 5th Circuit saw through this latest attempt by some to restrict religious freedom and impose their beliefs on others,” Paxton said in the release. “Mississippi’s law affirms what the U.S. Supreme Court professed in Obergefell: that religious men and women be ‘given proper protection’ to exercise their faith.’”