Utah AG joins defense of Mississippi’s ‘religious freedom’ law critics say is anti-LGBT

Posted at 8:14 AM, Nov 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-05 10:14:13-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has signed on to a brief with eight other states in support of a controversial Mississippi “religious freedom” law.

The amicus filing before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals seeks to reverse a federal judge’s decision to block Mississippi’s House Bill 1523 from being implemented. Critics have claimed the law allows for discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by allowing public employees to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or businesses to refuse to provide any services if it violates their religious or moral beliefs.

“At its core, HB 1523 is a conscientious-objector law. It prevents government from compelling speech, and it protects individual rights in our pluralistic society. That is precisely why the district court’s injunction should be vacated,” Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller wrote in the filing.

His “friend of the court” filing was joined by Reyes and the attorneys general from Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, and Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

Speaking to FOX 13 on Friday, Utah’s Federal Solicitor Parker Douglas said the attorney general’s office joined the court filing on First Amendment free speech grounds, raising issues of whether it is OK for people to express themselves religiously.

Troy Williams, the executive director of the LGBT rights group Equality Utah, criticized the state for joining in the defense of Mississippi’s law.

“The only purpose of Mississippi’s law is to allow religious individuals to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans. This unconstitutional law violates the spirit of fairness for all that we achieved in Utah’s anti-discrimination efforts last year,” he wrote in a statement to FOX 13.

“It’s shameful and hypocritical — though sadly, not surprising — that Governor Herbert and Sean Reyes would defend such a mean-spirited law. But we know the trajectory of such efforts. Herbert and Reyes will fail again and the Courts will ultimately protect the rights and liberties of Mississippi’s LGBTQ residents.”

Read the amicus filing here: