The US Supreme Court has refused to hear a case regarding a Mississippi law that allows people to deny services to LGBTQ people based on “sincerely held” religious beliefs.
The Mississippi state law went into effect on 10 October 2016 - just a year after the highest court in the country ruled on the legality of gay marriage - after several state court battles by community advocacy lawyers.
Essentially, the law allows state employees to deny LGBTQ couples marriage licenses and offers legal protection for private businesses that choose not to serve LGBTQ customers based on the business owners’ religious beliefs.
The people being protected, according to a section of the legislation: Mississippians who believe legal, legitimate marriage is only between a man and woman, “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage,” and that a person’s gender is “immutable” - determined “by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”
Lower courts determined that the immediate challenges to the law were not sufficient enough to overturn it because those suing - including ordained ministers who married same-sex couples as well as LGBT couples seeking to marry - could not show how they would be significantly harmed by the law.
However, an attorney on the opposition side, Beth Littrell of LGBTQ rights organisation Lambda Legal, told The Independent that the move by the US Supreme Court is "absolutely not" an implication that the Mississippi law is constitutional.
She explained that it only allows the lower court, in the Fifth Circuit, ruling to stand. That court "ruled only that the harm identified by the plaintiffs after the law was passed but before it took effect were insufficient to establish standing (the right to challenge the law); it did not rule on the constitutionality of the law."
Another lower court, the district court, ruled the law could be challenged and was unconstitutional but the higher appellate court reversed only part of that decision. The Appellate Court said "that the plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law, it did not reach the question of whether or not the law was constitutional."
However, the law goes beyond marriage rights and private services - like the bakery in Colorado that refused to make a gay couple a wedding cake.
It includes access to necessary medical services since doctors and pharmacists with “sincerely held” religious beliefs are protected.
Also, access is limited or cut off to any other rights afforded to legally married individuals in other states: health insurance, estate planning, tax benefits, custody of children, and adoption to name a few.
Several Christian groups backed the law and fought to keep it on the books.