Mississippi ACLU vows to continue fight on HB 1523, despite Supreme Court's decision

Mississippi ACLU vows to continue fight on HB 1523, despite Supreme Court's decision

JACKSON, MS (AP/WLOX) - The executive director for the ACLU of Mississippi says she's "deeply disappointed" in the Supreme Court's refusal Monday to hear challenges to HB 1523, calling it "a license to discriminate."

"While the right to one's religious belief is fundamental, a license to discriminate is not. Same-sex couples deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as anyone else," Jennifer Riley Collins said.

Gov. Phil Bryant signed HB 1523 into law in 2016, but because of various legal challenges, it didn't go into effect until October 2017. The law allows government workers and private businesses to cite their own religious beliefs as a reason for not serving LGBT people.

The law specifically protects three beliefs: that marriage is only between a man and a woman, that sex should only occur in such a marriage and that a person's gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered.

But the legal battle isn't over. A federal judge has allowed the law's challengers to try to find people who have been denied services under the law because they would be able to make a strong legal claim that they have been harmed.

"We want to hear from anyone who experiences discrimination in marriage, health care, or any other context," Collins said.

The ACLU of Mississippi already has a challenge to the law ready to move forward.

"Our case was filed on behalf of a same-sex couple planning to marry in Mississippi in the near future. We will continue to proceed on behalf of our members - Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas – to protect them and other same-sex couples from this harmful and discriminatory law. This law should not allow state employees to withhold marriage licenses from same-sex couples," Collins said.

If you or someone you know has experienced discrimination and would like to contact the ACLU, you can reach out on the organization's complaint line at (601) 355-6464 or learn more by visiting the Legal Assistance page of their website.

Copyright 2018 WLOX and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.