Mississippi governor weighs in for freedom, defends anti-coercion law

ADF attorneys are co-counsel in defense of state’s Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Attorney sound bite:  Kevin Theriot

NEW ORLEANS – Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant argued forcefully in favor of the state’s law protecting Mississippians against government discrimination in a brief filed late Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. In the brief, Bryant and his attorney team, which includes attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, answered arguments against the law levied by those who filed suit to leave citizens without its protections. Bryant filed his opening brief with the 5th Circuit in October of last year.

The Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, HB 1523, protects citizens, public servants, businesses, and religious institutions from government reprisal for operating publicly according to their belief that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman, that sexual activity is intended only for married couples, and that one’s biological sex cannot change. Bryant signed the overwhelmingly popular bill into law in April 2016, but a federal district court granted a request to block it shortly thereafter.

“Americans shouldn’t live in fear of losing their careers or their businesses simply for affirming marriage as a husband-wife union,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “Good laws like Mississippi’s protect freedom and harm no one. Those challenging this law have not and will not be harmed but want to restrict freedom and impose their beliefs on others by ensuring dissenters are left open to the government discrimination that has already occurred in states without protective laws like this one.”

As the brief filed with the 5th Circuit in Barber v. Bryant and Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant explains, “Section 3(5) [the law HB 1523 created] protects businesses only from being compelled to participate in, or lend direct assistance to, a marriage ceremony between people of the same sex—if (and only if) such participation or direct assistance would violate the owners’ religious or moral beliefs…. HB 1523…simply protects others from being forced to affirm conduct that violates their conscientious beliefs. No one has a ‘fundamental right’ to force an unwilling participant to attend or provide services at his or her wedding.”
 
  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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