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Not so fast: Judge blocks anti-gay law in Mississippi

A Mississippi law protecting people who oppose same-sex marriage which was due to go into effect today was blocked at the 11th hour..

The bill, called “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” would allow businesses and services to not provide services to gay couples without any repercussions from the state government.

The law was signed by the state’s Governor Phil Bryant who said via Twitter, “This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws.”

But then U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled to ban the law before it would have taken place today. Gay rights activists and groups fought for months before Gov. Bryant signed it.

Reeves said the law was “a vehicle for state-sanctioned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” The law is very much a block of inequality for LGBTQ rights.

House Bill 1523 is not the only discriminatory law around. In the U.S., and countries around the world anti-gay laws strip the LGBTQ community of civil and human rights. In 73 countries, homosexual activity is illegal or a criminal offense.

Even in the U.S., after the legalization of same-sex marriage at the federal level bizarre old state laws remain in the books in places like Texas, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota and 13 others.

While the majority of the time, these laws are rarely ever used. They instill a social stigma against LGBT culture which remains in legislature. The case of Lawrence v. Texas captures how slow to change some of these old laws can be.

In 2003 — before same-sex marriage was upheld by SCOTUS — a case in Texas resulted in a landmark win for gay rights. The law in Texas prohibited “deviant sexual intercourse” which is quite broad, but was imposed for communities to be able to mark those who identify as LGBTQ as criminals. Radiolab’s podcast goes further into this case.

What you should know is two gay men were arrested in their own home, gay rights activists helped push their case to the Supreme Court which ruled that the law in Texasviolated privacy and liberty of individuals.

Anti-gay laws can carry punishments ranging from heavy fines to imprisonment or even death in some countries. In regions where the “criminal offense” is a heavy fine, for years it was easier to pay the fine instead of fight the legal battle. The choice of John Lawrence, Tyron Garner, and especially gay activist Lane Lewis to pursue the case in court instead of pay a $125 fine was brave.

Today, the decision by Judge Carlton Reeves is positive impact to keep and continue progress for gay rights and a more equal world.

Cheers to all the lawmakers, and global citizens out there speaking up for more inclusive justice systems and laws. The legal system should protect the rights of all humans. There is no place for discriminatory laws in an equal world.