In the past week, there have been two major challenges to anti-LGBT rights laws in the United States.
In Mississippi, US District Judge Carlton Reeves blocked a ‘religious objections’ law concerning the rights of LGBT citizens just before it was due to go into effect on 1 July.
Reeves ruled that the law was unconstitutional in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling of Obergefell v Hodges. Obergefell v Hodges effectively legalized same-sex marriages in the United States by finding that state bans on same-sex marriages were unconstitutional. Reeves wrote in his decision that the religious objections law was ‘the state’s attempt to put LGBT citizens back in their place.’
The law would have allowed merchants to refuse services to LGBT+ people on the basis of religious belief. In addition to allowing clerks to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the law would also state that gender is determined at birth and cannot be changed.
Reeves wrote that the law ‘does not honor the tradition of religious freedom, nor does it respect the equal dignity of Mississippi citizens.’
‘The State has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others,’ Reeves wrote. ‘In physics, every action has its equal and opposite reaction. In politics, every action has its predictable overreaction.’
Republican Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said that he is planning to appeal the ruling.
The US Justice Department has acted to block North Carolina House Bill 2 (commonly known as HB-2 or ‘the bathroom bill’) from going into effect.
HB-2, the ‘Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act’, strikes down anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people and requires that individuals only use the bathrooms which correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. The legislation also changes the definition of ‘sex’ in North Carolina law to mean ‘the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.’
A 5 July filing in a US District Court in North Carolina says that the controversial law will likely be overturned, based on the recent 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling involving a transgender student’s access to bathrooms in Virginia. The Reeves decision in Mississippi has also been cited as reason to believe the law will be overturned.
Minor changes were made in the bill the previous week. These changes would have allowed people to sue in State Court if they believed they had been discriminated against, while leaving the majority of the law unchanged.