A federal judge in Mississippi issued an injunction late Thursday blocking a law that supported denial of wedding services to homosexual couples on religious grounds. The move came less than an hour before the law was to go into effect Friday.
In a 60-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that it is “the state's attempt to put LGBT citizens back in their place” in response to last June’s Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage across the United States.
“In physics, every action has its equal and opposite reaction,” Reeves wrote. "In politics, every action has its predictable overreaction."
Mississippi's “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” gave people the right to refuse to provide a wide range of services from baking a wedding cake for a gay couple to fertility services on the basis of religious grounds. It protected three religious beliefs that said that marriage happens only between a man and a woman; sexual relations should take place only in such a marriage; and that a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be changed. The law also imposed dress and bathroom restrictions on transgender people.
“The state has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others,” Reeves wrote.
The judge also stated that the law violated the Constitution’s equal protection promise. The law “does not honor that tradition of religion freedom, nor does it respect the equal dignity of all of Mississippi’s citizens,” Reeves wrote.
In April, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant — a Republican — signed the bill into law. The state defended the law as a reasonable accommodation to protect businesses and people seeking to exercise their religious views. However, critics maintain that given the broad nature of the law, it could apply to nearly anyone in a sexual relationship, including single mothers.
Reeves pointed out that one section of the bill states that Mississippi could not punish any religious organization that refuses to solemnize a same-sex marriage.
“There is nothing new or controversial about that section,” Reeves wrote. “Religious organizations already have that right under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”