New delay in Mississippi law on objection to gay marriage

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - New court action has created a slight delay for a Mississippi law that, barring an intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, will let government workers and business people cite their own religious objections to refuse services to gay couples.

Opponents asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday to keep blocking the law, which has been on hold more than a year. The court said it would not. The law had been set to take effect Friday, but the decision delays the effective date until next Tuesday.

The law , signed Republican Gov. Phil Bryant in 2016, is considered by legal experts to be the broadest religious-objections law enacted by any state since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.

"Although I'm very disappointed that the 5th Circuit is allowing the law to take effect, I'm pleased we were able to block it for the past 16 months," Robert McDuff, one of the attorneys representing people who sued to block the law, said Wednesday.

McDuff said the plaintiffs expect to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court later this month in the hopes of getting the nation's high court to permanently block the Mississippi law

"Hopefully, they will take the case and will rule in a way that once again blocks this unconstitutional law," McDuff said.

An Arizona-based Christian group, Alliance Defending Freedom, helped write the Mississippi law that protects three beliefs: that marriage is only between a man and a woman, sex should only take place in such a marriage, and a person's gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves blocked the law before it could take effect in July 2016, saying it unconstitutionally favors some religious beliefs over others. The 5th Circuit said the people who sued the state had not shown they are harmed.

Bryant said this week he believes the law is "perfectly constitutional."

"The people of Mississippi have the right to ensure that all of our citizens are free to peacefully live and work without fear of being punished for their sincerely held religious beliefs," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups plan to rally against the law Sunday outside the state Capitol.


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