Mississippi Throws Out Law Cloaking Discrimination in Religious Freedom

Judge Carlton Reeves, Southern District of Mississippi
Judge Carlton Reeves, Southern District of Mississippi

I told Attorney General Marty Jackley last year that he would lose any effort to defend county employees who refuse to issue marriage licenses to LGBT couples. I repeatedly told the 2016 Legislature that passing bills to allow Kim Davis wannabes to discriminate on the job would not pass Constitutional muster.

This week, Judge Carlton Reeves of the Southern District of Mississippi says I’m right. Judge Reeves was asked by the Campaign for Southern Equality to review Mississippi’s 2016 House Bill 1523, a bill seeking to legalize discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. Judge Reeves found that the portion of HB 1523 that allows county clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the Constitution and the 2015 Obergefell ruling:

“The Supreme Court’s ruling will be enforced,” Reeves wrote in Monday’s ruling.

“Mississippi’s elected official may disagree with Obergefell, of course, and may express that disagreement as they see fit — by advocating for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision, for example. But the marriage license issue will not be adjudicated anew after every legislative session,” the ruling says.

“And the judiciary will remain vigilant whenever a named party to an injunction is accused of circumventing that injunction, directly or indirectly.”

Mississippi was already been blocked from enforcing its ban on gay marriage but the order expands the so-called “recusal” provision of HB 1523.

“Clerks and their deputies are, after all, ‘public officials elected and paid by the county to serve the public and all of its citizens,'” Reeves wrote [Erik de la Garza, “Judge Blocks Mississippi Gay Marriage Recusal,” Courthouse News Service, 2016.06.28].

Mississippi’s unconstitutional HB 1523 reads very much like South Dakota’s failed 2016 House Bill 1107. The South Dakota House passed that unconstitutional measure 46–10 before Senate Judiciary stepped up and killed it. Rep. Al Novstrup voted for this violation of the Constitution; his son David acceded to the request of sponsor Rep. Scott Craig and voted to toss HB 1107 in committee.

Hmm… it would seem I understand the Constitution better than our Attorney General and the seven-term Legislator who wants to keep me out of Pierre. Judge Reeves’s ruling on Mississippi’s religious discrimination law suggests Pierre is right where I need to be to prevent the state from getting sucked into more bad laws and costly lawsuits.


29 Responses to Mississippi Throws Out Law Cloaking Discrimination in Religious Freedom

  1. Steve Sibson

    “it would seem I understand the Constitution better than our Attorney General and the seven-term Legislator who wants to keep me out of Pierre.”

    OK Cory, then explain how the Constitution allows discrimination of pedophiles and polygamists?

  2. mike from iowa

    The State of Mississippi will likely appeal the decision. Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves — who, the Associated Press notes, is not related to the judge — responded to the ruling by releasing a statement saying “If this opinion by the federal court denies even one Mississippian of their fundamental right to practice their religion, then all Mississippians are denied their 1st Amendment rights … I hope the state’s attorneys will quickly appeal this decision to the 5th Circuit to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of all Mississippians.”

    From yer Wonkette yesterday.

  3. Roger Cornelius

    Sibson continues to covet Dakota Free Press.

  4. owen reitzel

    “OK Cory, then explain how the Constitution allows discrimination of pedophiles and polygamists?”

    Gay marriage is legal. How do two people of the same sex that love each other hurt you personally Steve?
    Look if a clerk has a problem with gays being married that is the clerks right not to like. However, it’s that clerks job to give them a marriage. If the clerk dislikes do this so much then that person should quit and find a new job.

  5. Mr. Sibby is not a coveter. He does not recant nor confess to any sins. Mr. Sibby is as his god made him. He is an accountant without math, a dancer without rhythm, a clothes horse with a pony tail and a mind fraught with fragile crystalline memory lobes stacked like shoe boxes too high in your grandmother’s closet.

  6. Judge Reeves does not mince words. It’s impossible to miss the message he’s sending to the GOP party culture warriors. “The war is over. You keep coming up with new and innovative ways to deny gay couples marriage licenses every year, and I’ll keep striking them down.” I believe Judge Reeves views this issue through the prism of the Mississippi racial battles of old where the culture warriors of that era kept coming up with new ways to keep Judge Reeves’ parents from voting. The culture warriors lost that battle too.

  7. To put it in language Mr. Sibson would understand, Judge Reeves is a man who understands why it is that God gave him the opportunity to serve in this position. To Judge Reeves I say, “Amen Brother!”

  8. One sentence sums this issue up, “Clerks and their deputies are, after all, ‘public officials elected and paid by the county to serve the public and all of its citizens.'” Religion cannot be used as an excuse for discrimination.

  9. ‘Mr. Sibby is not a coveter. He does not recant nor confess to any sins. Mr. Sibby is as his god made him. He is an accountant without math, a dancer without rhythm, a clothes horse with a pony tail and a mind fraught with fragile crystalline memory lobes stacked like shoe boxes too high in your grandmother’s closet.’

    And you can add he’s a man who once dressed up as Thomas Jefferson and spoke to the grass and trees at the Davison County Courthouse several years ago on July 4. He did invite the public to come listen to him but there was no interest.

  10. Steve Sibson

    “He did invite the public to come listen to him but there was no interest.”

    That is a lie. All of these personal attacks are designed to avoid dealing with the point I made. Owen tried:

    “Gay marriage is legal.”

    It wasn’t in South Dakota until the SCOTUS legalized it. So again, based on that ruling, is the SCOTUS discriminating against pedophiles and polygamists?

  11. Bill Dithmer

    “Gay marriage is legal.”

    “It wasn’t in South Dakota until the SCOTUS legalized it. So again, based on that ruling, is the SCOTUS discriminating against pedophiles and polygamists?”

    Gay marriage is legall, the other two are not.

    That was simple.

    The Blindman

  12. “He did invite the public to come listen to him but there was no interest.”

    “no” is one of those absolute terms. Mr. Sibson is a member of the public. Mr. Sibson is interested in listening to himself talk. So it would be more accurate to say,

    “He did invite the public to come listen to him but there was very, very little interest.” What interest there was, if any, is akin to the interest in watching a car accident. Just like when he comes here to spout his nonsense.

  13. mike from iowa

    This very day, federal judges in Floriduh and Indiana put holds on draconian abortion restrictions- making it a clean sweep for the rule of law against anti-government wingnut states.

    Turn out the lights, the party is so over for religious zealots in gubmint.

  14. bearcreekbat

    Has anyone filed a lawsuit to enjoin SD’s new abortion law that went into effect today?

  15. mike from iowa

    bcb-Planned Parenthood is making noises about going after other states laws. SD wan’t mentioned by name. I did find an excellent article detailing Breyer’s majority opinion takedown of the 5th Circuit court’s reasoning for allowing Texas law to stand. In case you hadn’t seen this.

    https://rewire.news/article/2016/06/27/what-mondays-supreme-court-decision-means/

    Some hides got blistered, I do believe.

  16. Randee Huber

    The Republican Taliban in the South Dakota legislature does not care about constitutionality or facts. They care about cramming their archaic views down the throats of their constituents.

  17. bearcreekbat

    mfi, interesting Rewire explanation and analysis of Breyer’s opinion – thanks! I read Breyer’s opinion and Rewire’s analysis seems dead on.

    SD’s “fetal pain” claims seem similar to the “dismemberment” analysis described in the Rewire article. Under Breyer’s majority opinion, it now appears that such rationales for TRAP laws will carry no weight in future legal challenges.

    Funny how for so many folks who see themselves as conservatives the right to own any type of military weapon designed for mass killing is more important than the right to decide whether another entity can use your body. Go figure.

  18. mike from iowa

    Drumpf opined today that if Scalia was alive, the Texas decision would have been reversed. I guess he believes 3+1 = 5 or something.

  19. owen reitzel

    Randee. Aren’t you the one giving NOems toby Russ Hopp a bad time all the time?

  20. “mike from iowa” writes:

    Turn out the lights, the party is so over for religious zealots in gubmint.

    Yeah, like the religious zealots who explicitly listed the free exercise of religion as our first constitutional right, even before the freedom of speech and the press. It’s sad that so many of us would force a duly elected public official to resign rather than making even minimal accommodations for her religious freedom.

    Drumpf opined today that if Scalia was alive, the Texas decision would have been reversed. I guess he believes 3+1 = 5 or something.

    It looks to me like we have five justices pushing the Dem agenda and two pushing the Republican agenda, and Clarence Thomas is the only one left who’s still honoring his oath to the Constitution.

  21. Darin Larson

    Kurt Evans writes: “It’s sad that so many of us would force a duly elected public official to resign rather than making even minimal accommodations for her religious freedom.”

    The duly elected public official should not have run for office if they are not able to carry out the duties of said office. Pretty simple concept really. When they are a state official, they are a state actor. A state actor does not have the unfettered ability to discriminate. And their personal religious freedoms don’t enter into the equation when they are wearing their public official hat. They can go home after work and put on their white sheets and pointy hats, but during office hours they have to put their prejudice aside and do their job.

    We hear all the time about how Muslims want to institute Sharia law and then I suspect some of these same folks are defending putting their own religious beliefs into action by public officials. Irony? Hypocrisy? or both?!

  22. “That is a lie. All of these personal attacks are designed to avoid dealing with the point I made.”

    Oh, that’s right, your wife Kathy showed up. Okay so one person was interested. Curious though; why have you not followed up each July 4 since then dressed up as another founding father and speak on the courthouse lawn? If there was interest in your first speech? And personal attack? Really? You put yourself out there. You are fair game.

  23. Don Coyote

    @Kurt Evans: “Yeah, like the religious zealots who explicitly listed the free exercise of religion as our first constitutional right, even before the freedom of speech and the press.”

    The Bill of Rights are not ordered by the Founders perception of relative importance. In actuality, the order they are placed in is the same order as the sections of the Constitution they amended since Madison’s original plan was to incorporate the amendments into the original text of the Constitution. The First Amendment was originally the Third Amendment but the first two amendments of the original twelve weren’t ratified while the final ten were.

  24. mike from iowa

    Kurt.you are free to exercise your religion, just not in the employ of my gubmint.

    There are good reasons to keep anyone’s religious beliefs out of government. The fact that it violates my sincerely held beliefs is the first and best reason of all.

  25. “mike from iowa” had written:

    Turn out the lights, the party is so over for religious zealots in gubmint.

    I’d written:

    Yeah, like the religious zealots who explicitly listed the free exercise of religion as our first constitutional right, even before the freedom of speech and the press.

    “Don Coyote” replies:

    In actuality, the order they are placed in is the same order as the sections of the Constitution they amended …

    The rights in the First Amendment all relate to the same section of the Constitution (Article I, Section 8).

    The First Amendment was originally the Third Amendment but the first two amendments of the original twelve weren’t ratified while the final ten were.

    Neither of those rejected amendments was intended to protect individual rights.

    I’d written:

    It’s sad that so many of us would force a duly elected public official to resign rather than making even minimal accommodations for her religious freedom.

    Darin Larson replies:

    The duly elected public official should not have run for office if they are not able to carry out the duties of said office.

    In some cases that may be true, but even then it fails to address situations in which the official’s religious beliefs or assigned duties change after she takes office.

    And their personal religious freedoms don’t enter into the equation when they are wearing their public official hat.

    The official’s right to religious liberty always enters into the equation, even when her government fails to secure that right.

    We hear all the time about how Muslims want to institute Sharia law and then I suspect some of these same folks are defending putting their own religious beliefs into action by public officials. Irony? Hypocrisy? or both?!

    The threat of Sharia law taking hold in America is probably exaggerated, but there’s no inherent irony or hypocrisy in the situation you describe.

    “mike from iowa” writes:

    There are good reasons to keep anyone’s religious beliefs out of government. The fact that it violates my sincerely held beliefs is the first and best reason of all.

    Considering that your sincerely held beliefs appear to be riddled with internal contradictions, that’s actually a really lousy reason.

  26. mike from iowa

    Kurt Evans writes- Considering that your sincerely held beliefs appear to be riddled with internal contradictions, that’s actually a really lousy reason.

    Maybe, Kurt, but it is the only reason I need and your pers
    onal beliefs, like most everyone else’s, have the same flaws.

    I believe the courts will back me up on this one.

  27. Darin Larson

    Kurt Evans– there is no hypocrisy or irony in someone railing against the institution of Islamic religious law when that same person seeks to institute their personal religious beliefs in the institution of their official public actions? To wit: the county clerk who refuses to issue a marriage license to a gay couple based upon the clerk’s own religious beliefs.

    Care to explain?

  28. Kurt says, “The official’s right to religious liberty always enters into the equation, even when her government fails to secure that right.”

    But that equation balances in favor of the state when, as Darin says, the official puts on her public official hat. The citizen has a right to decide whether or not to put on that hat. The citizen knows the obligations of public employment before taking that job. The citizen can choose whether or not to take that job. If the citizen chooses to take that job, the citizen chooses to set aside her First Amendment right to practice religion during office hours as surely and as justly as that citizen chooses to set aside her First Amendment right to wear a “Clinton for President” button on her blouse during official work hours. During office hours, the citizen is no longer just a citizen; the citizen is the state.

  29. “mike from iowa” writes:

    … your personal beliefs, like most everyone else’s, have the same flaws.

    That’s true, but unlike you I’m not claiming anyone’s beliefs should be kept out of government merely because they violate mine.

    Darin Larson writes:

    Kurt Evans– there is no hypocrisy or irony in someone railing against the institution of Islamic religious law when that same person seeks to institute their personal religious beliefs in the institution of their official public actions? To wit: the county clerk who refuses to issue a marriage license to a gay couple based upon the clerk’s own religious beliefs.

    Care to explain?

    There could be hypocrisy and irony in the situation if the clerk sought to institute the same Islamic religious law she was railing against, but there wouldn’t be any inherent incongruity between railing against one system and seeking to institute another, and an official whose religion prevents her from personally performing a task isn’t necessarily seeking to institute anything in the first place.

    I’d written:

    The official’s right to religious liberty always enters into the equation, even when her government fails to secure that right.

    Cory replies:

    But that equation balances in favor of the state when, as Darin says, the official puts on her public official hat.

    The framers of the Constitution generally indicated that the right to religious liberty was unalienable and that the First Amendment was intended to balance the equation in favor of the individual.

    The citizen knows the obligations of public employment before taking that job.

    That’s not always true.

    If the citizen chooses to take that job, the citizen chooses to set aside her First Amendment right to practice religion during office hours …

    During office hours, the citizen is no longer just a citizen; the citizen is the state.

    I’m wondering what you’d cite as a moral or legal basis for those claims.