Attorneys defend Mississippi law on denying LGBT services

Attorneys for Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant are defending a state law that lets government workers and private business people cite religious beliefs to deny services to LGBT people.

In arguments filed Monday to the U.S. Supreme Court, they wrote that the law protects people from being penalized for refusing to participate in activities they consider “immoral,” such as same-sex marriage.

Legal experts say the 2016 Mississippi law is the broadest religious-objections law enacted by any state since the high court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.

The law took effect last month amid multiple court challenges. It protects three beliefs: that marriage is only between a man and a woman, that sex should only occur in such a marriage and that a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered.

An Arizona-based Christian group, Alliance Defending Freedom, helped write the Mississippi law . The alliance’s Kevin Theriot (TAIR-ee-oh) was one of three attorneys who wrote the arguments submitted to the Supreme Court on behalf of Republican Bryant.

“Until recently, there was no need for the law to protect the conscientious scruples of those who oppose same-sex marriage,” the attorneys for the governor wrote. “That is because it was unthinkable — until recently — that government officials might coerce private citizens into participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies, or penalize them for their refusal to do so. But state and local governments have been taking action against Christians who decline to participate in these ceremonies on account of their religious beliefs.”

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