Legal Advocates Will Appeal Case Against Anit-LGBT Law HB1523 To Supreme Court

October 2, 2017

Mississippi civil rights attorney Rob McDuff, along with Mississippi Center for Justice and Lambda Legal, today announced they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied their en banc petition asking the full court to rehear the case challenging Mississippi House Bill 1523, one of the most anti-LGBT laws in the country.

Joining them for the appeal to the Supreme Court are former U.S. Solicitor General Don Verrilli and attorney Paul Smith, who co-counseled with Lambda and argued the landmark case of Lawrence v. Texas, which declared laws criminalizing same-sex relationships to be unconstitutional.

 

“This is an unfair and unconstitutional law, and we are taking our claim to the Supreme Court,” said Mississippi civil rights attorney Rob McDuff. “People should not have to live through discrimination in order to challenge it.” 

“We are appealing to our nation’s highest court to make sure that attempts by state legislatures to defy the law of the land and trample the rights of LGBT people are blocked for good,” said Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal. “Mississippi’s HB 1523 creates a toxic environment of fear and prejudice. Along with other anti-LGBT laws across the country like those in North Carolina and Texas, these laws are a pack of wolves in sheep’s clothing, dressing up discrimination and calling it religious freedom.”

“We are heading to the Supreme Court to demand for access to justice. LGBT Mississippians should not have to endure even more profound discrimination before they can ask the court to put a stop to it,” said Beth Orlansky, advocacy director for the Mississippi Center for Justice. “Our plaintiffs have already seen the ill effects of HB 1523 without it even taking effect and they should get their day in court.”

Yesterday’s decision is the latest step in a legal challenge begun by the Plaintiffs in the summer of 2016 when a Mississippi federal district judge issued an injunction blocking HB 1523 from taking effect. On appeal, a panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s injunction and held that the plaintiffs did not suffer a specific harm from a law that had not yet taken effect. Yesterday, the Fifth Circuit denied the Plaintiffs’ petition to rehear the caser en banc, with two judges dissenting. 

In his dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge James Dennis castigated the Fifth Circuit for “abdicat[ing] its mandate to decide the substantive claims raised by the plaintiffs.”  His opinion explains how the panel decision “falls into grievous error, unjustifiably creates a split [in the] circuits, and rejects pertinent Supreme Court teachings,” denying Mississippi residents “a forum in which to challenge the evils against which the Establishment Clause was designed to protect.’”  This split in the circuits creates strong grounds for Supreme Court review.

 

The 12 individuals and the church that are plaintiffs in Barber v. Bryant  are a cross-section of Mississippians  harmed by HB 1523 –clergy, LGBT residents, community leaders and activists. The lawsuit argues that HB 1523 violates the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.