May 9, 2016 at 11:33 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay couple files lawsuit against Miss. religious freedom law

Mississippi, gay news, Washington Blade

A federal lawsuit challenges Mississippi’s controversial religious freedom law that is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A gay couple on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against Mississippi’s religious freedom law that critics contend allows anti-LGBT discrimination.

Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas allege that House Bill 1523 violates the 14th Amendment “by subjecting the lawful marriages of same-sex couples to different terms and conditions than those accorded to different-sex couples.”

“By creating a separate and unequal set of laws applying only to the marriages of same-sex couples, HB 1523 imposes a disadvantage, a separate status and so a stigma upon all married same-sex couples in Mississippi,” reads the lawsuit.

The lawsuit — which was filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson — also seeks an injunction that would prevent HB 1523 from taking effect on July 1.

“HB 1523 provides complete immunity for certain individuals and organizations to act or refuse to act based on their religious or moral belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman,” it reads. “HB 1523 creates an absolute right for those individuals and organizations to act or refuse to act based on these particular religious or moral beliefs regardless of whether the burden on religious beliefs would otherwise be justified under Mississippi’s (religious freedom law.)”

“When acting or refusing to act based on such beliefs, HB 1523 immunizes those individuals and organizations from all legal liability, including liability through common law claims for torts or breaches of contract,” it adds.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi is also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Judy Moulder of the State Registrar of Vital Records is identified as a defendant.

Gov. Phil Bryant signed HB 1523 last month.

ABC News on Monday reported Bryant said the ACLU is “trying to use the federal court system to push its liberal agenda.” The governor also accused the group of “cherry-picking causes popular with the radical left.”

First lady Michelle Obama criticized the statute during the commencement speech she delivered at Jackson State University on April 23. Singer Belinda Carlisle — who performed in Mississippi last month — and others have also spoken out against HB 1523.

A source told the Blade last month that Bryant’s son was attacked in 2012 because he is gay.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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