Plaintiffs file HB 1523 brief with Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

Plaintiffs file HB 1523 brief with Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - Plaintiffs in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant (CSE III) filed their brief today with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in their legal challenge to Mississippi's HB 1523, according to a news release issued by Campaign for Southern Equality.

The brief argues that HB 1523, by protecting three specific religious beliefs above all others, is unprecedented and violates the First Amendment's guarantee that government cannot "establish" a religion.

In addition to CSE, the other plaintiff in the case is the Rev. Dr. Susan Hrostowski, a CSE member who currently serves as the vicar of St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church in Collins, Mississippi and lives in Forrest County, Mississippi with her wife and their 16-year-old son.

At trial, Rev. Hrostowski testified that:

"HB 1523 "conveys a message to [her] that the State [of Mississippi] wants to hold certain people, that would be gay men, lesbians, and transgender people, to be less worthy and have less dignity than other human beings," and that HB 1523 is "the antithesis of the message of Jesus" and the teachings of the Episcopal Church.

HB 1523, which was signed into law last spring, would have allowed public employees, service providers, and business owners in Mississippi to deny treatment, services, and goods to LGBT individuals on the basis of three specific religious beliefs:

  1. that marriage can only be between a man and a woman;
  2. that sexual intercourse is properly reserved to such a marriage; and
  3. that sex is an immutable characteristic that is assigned at birth and cannot change.

Following a two-day evidentiary hearing during which eight witnesses testified, HB 1523 was struck down by U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves last summer only minutes before it was supposed to go into effect. In his ruling, Judge Reeves stated that the

"court finds that [HB 1523] does not honor the tradition of religious freedom, nor does it respect the equal dignity of all of Mississippi's citizens."

Although Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood decided not to press an appeal, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant appealed the district court's decision to the Fifth Circuit. Arguments before the Fifth Circuit have not yet been scheduled, but are likely to take place in the spring or summer of 2017, according to the news release issued.