Written by Don Byrd
Multiple lawsuits have been filed challenging recently passed state legislation I posted about here at the BJC Blog. Here is a quick run-down:
In Tennessee, plaintiffs filed suit in Anderson County challenging a new law that allows counselors to refuse clients if treating them would violate sincerely held principles. The law has been criticized by many, including Christian counselors who argue such refusal violates their professional and moral responsibilities. Proponents of the law claim it is necessary to protect counselors’ right to act according to their conscience. Associated Press reports on the suit, which apparently claims the law violates the Tennessee Constitution.
Meanwhile, in Mississippi, three (3) lawsuits have been filed challenging House Bill 1523, scheduled to go into effect in July, that offers broad protections against government penalty for action taken in accordance with certain religious beliefs. Plaintiffs in the latest suit include community leaders, clergy and a Hattiesburg church.
The plaintiffs have sued the governor, the attorney general, the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the state registrar of vital records, asking the federal court to issue an injunction blocking the bill from becoming state law on July 1. Gov. Phil Bryant recently received a Religious Freedom Award for his actions.
The lawsuit says that “with the passage and approval of that bill, the Legislature and the Governor breached the separation of church and state, and specifically endorsed certain narrow religious beliefs that condemn same-sex couples who get married, condemn unmarried people who have sexual relations, and condemn transgender people.”
A lawsuit was previously filed by the ACLU arguing that the exemptions violate the Equal Protection guarantees of the Constitution, and plaintiffs in a 2014 lawsuit that helped overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage are seeking to re-open the case for the purpose of halting HB 1523.