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The Campaign for Southern Equality vows to fight on

Mississippi’s law legalizing discrimination against gay and transgender Mississippians is now in effect.

The law – commonly referred to as HB 1523 – went into effect after midnight, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, October 10th. It protects people who claim conservative religious beliefs about marriage and gender as justification from facing charges of illegal discrimination.

The “religious objections” law was originally struck down by a federal judge in Jackson, but that ruling was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the plaintiffs in the case, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant III, did not have standing because a law that had yet to go into effect could not have yet caused harm.

“There is no way to sugarcoat this – HB 1523 is a reckless law designed to discriminate against and hurt the LGBTQ community,” Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the founding Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE), wrote in an email Monday night. “It allows public employees, service providers, and business owners to refuse services on the basis of religious beliefs about marriage, sex, and transgender identity.”

The law, CSE says, could “cast a long shadow over” the lives of the more than 60,000 LGBT adults who live in Mississippi, including 3,500 same-sex couples. Mississippi has the highest percentage of gay couples raising children in the country.

Roberta Kaplan, lead counsel for CSE, vowed to continue to fight the law.

“This decision is not only deeply upsetting for the rights of LGBT individuals living in Mississippi, but also for all Americans who value religious liberty in our country,” Kaplan said. “Our clients have suffered enough. We will continue to work with CSE to fight this harmful law on the merits and to protect our constitutional values and the LGBT citizens of Mississippi.”

Roberta Kaplan speaks at a forum on equality the University of Southern Mississippi on November 15, 2015. Photo by Ashton Pittman for Deep South Voice.

Kaplan rose to international notoriety in 2013, when she successfully argued the case before the Supreme Court that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), paving the way to federal recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples nation wide.

CSE urges Mississippians who encounter discrimination in the wake of HB 1523’s implementation to report any such incidents through one of those following methods:

• Phone or text: ‪(828) 242-1559
• By email: info@southernequality.org
• On their website: SouthernEquality.org
• On their Facebook page: Click here.

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