The Slatest

Federal Judge Rules Mississippi Clerks Can’t Cite Religious Beliefs to Avoid Issuing Gay Couples’ Marriage Licenses

Same-sex marriage supporters celebrating the U.S Supreme Court ruling regarding same-sex marriage on June 26, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Monday that clerks in Mississippi may not recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples based on their religious beliefs. The ruling effectively bars the state from enforcing a provision of a new law, House Bill 1523, passed in the state in response to the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell last year legalizing gay marriage. The bill, also referred to as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” was signed into law in April and slated to go into effect on Friday.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, however, rejected the religious objection provision of the law citing the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution. “Mississippi’s elected officials 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,” Reeves wrote in his ruling. “But the marriage license issue will not be adjudicated anew after every legislative session.”

The bill is backed by the state’s Republican Governor Phil Bryant and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.