New Complaint Challenges Mississippi’s Anti-LGBT Law HB 1523, Seeking Preliminary Injunction

On Monday, a motion for preliminary injunction was filed challenging the constitutionality of HB 1523, a sweeping anti-LGBT Mississippi law, under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. This followed the filing on Friday evening of a complaint that challenged the law on the basis of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiffs Susan Hrostowski and the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) are represented by a legal team including lead counsel Roberta Kaplan and attorney Alysson Mills.

“In 1776, the founders of our nation declared that ‘all men are created equal’ and that they are ‘endowed’ with ‘certain unalienable rights,’ including ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Almost 240 years later, on July 1 of this year, the State of Mississippi intends to implement a law that could hardly be more inconsistent with these principles,” says lead counsel Roberta Kaplan. “That law, HB 1523, declares that Mississippians who hold certain religious beliefs–namely, that gay people should not be permitted to marry (among others)–should have special rights and privileges, including the right to discriminate against and undermine the dignity of LGBT citizens. Given this obvious contradiction between HB 1523 and the core principles that our country has long stood for, we are confident that HB 1523 will not survive review by a federal court.”

“Clearly, this law targets a specific population for discrimination and comes out of a specific religious perspective of certain politicians.  It is antithetical to my own religious views  and those of the Episcopal Church (as well as other denominations) which are based on the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. Chief among those teachings is to love one another as he loved us,” says Rev. Susan Hrostowski, plaintiff in the case.

Court documents are available at:

Complaint filed on June 10th: https://southernequality.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/June10th-Complaint.pdf

Motion for Preliminary Injunction filed on June 13th:

https://southernequality.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/June-13th-Motion-for-Preliminary-Injunction-Declarations-Memo.pdf

The complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief seeks to preliminarily and permanently enjoin the enforcement and application of HB 1523, arguing that:

“HB 1523 creates an arguably unqualified religious accommodation and impermissibly and systematically imposes the resulting burden on gay and lesbian Mississippians, even when doing so impinges on their most fundamental rights.”

A native of Mississippi, plaintiff Susan Hrostowski is an Episcopal priest and a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Social Work. Rev. Hrostowski and her wife, Kathy Garner, have a 16-year-old son, who served as the best man at their wedding. Susan and Kathy were also co-plaintiffs with CSE in a 2015 lawsuit that successfully struck down the Mississippi law banning same-sex couples from adopting.

“Clearly, this law targets a specific population for discrimination and comes out of a specific religious perspective of certain politicians,” says Rev. Hrostowski.  “It is antithetical to my own religious views  and those of the Episcopal Church (as well as other denominations) which are based on the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.  Chief among those teachings is to love one another as he loved us.”

“LGBT people live in every town across Mississippi and must be treated equally in every part of life. As long as the state of Mississippi continues to pass discriminatory laws that attack the LGBT community, we will continue to seek recourse in the federal courts. A day after the horrific attack at a gay club in Orlando, our hearts are heavy with the knowledge that hatred persists against LGBT people and, in the face of that, our commitment to love and the pursuit of justice must be intensified,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of CSE, which has been advocating for LGBT equality across Mississippi since 2012 through public actions, public education campaigns and lawsuits.

Mississippi is home to 60,000 LGBT adults and an estimated 11,400 Transgender youth and adults, according to 2016 data published by The Williams Institute at the U.C.L.A. School of Law. The state is also home to 3,500 same-sex couples, 29 percent of whom are raising children.

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