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5th Circuit Ruling on MS Religious Refusal Law – Statement of GLAD

We are all supposed to come before our government as equals, without favoritism based on religion or who we are.

Today a three judge panel of the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned a lower court ruling against Mississippi HB 1523, the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” saying that plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge the law.

GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary L. Bonauto issued the following statement:

“Mississippi’s HB 1523 is the most sweeping religious refusal law passed to date in the U.S. With it, the State of Mississippi elevated one specific set of religious beliefs about LGBTQ people as its own in order to justify denying government, business, and social services and refusing to extend common decency to LGBTQ people.

Today, the Fifth  Circuit said the challengers had not yet shown concrete harm from the law, and thus it should not have been enjoined by a lower court. But when the government takes the side of one particular faith perspective against a group of citizens because of who they are and who they love – GLAD believes that is real harm under both the First Amendment Establishment Clause and the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause. We are all supposed to come before our government as equals, without favoritism based on religion or who we are.”

The Fifth Circuit did not rule on whether the law is itself constitutional. The law is not in effect, and may not go into effect where the challengers have all announced they will seek further review in the Fifth  Circuit.

GLAD, in partnership with Ropes & Gray, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the ACLU, submitted an amicus brief in Barber v. Bryant, one of the two cases challenging the Mississippi law.


Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.