Religious freedom bill will end up in court

Published 10:55 am Friday, April 1, 2016

The Mississippi Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow government employees and private businesses to cite religious beliefs to refuse licenses or other services for same-sex couples who want to marry, The Associated Press reported.

The bill now goes back to the House for more work. “The bill says the state could not punish businesses that refuse to sell goods or services to same-sex couples or religious groups that refuse to let gay or lesbian people be foster or adoptive parents,” AP reported.

Similar bills were filed in other states following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that legalized same-sex marriage.

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If the bill becomes law, it would likely result in costly lawsuits and would likely be overturned in federal court.

Allowing private businesses and religious groups to cite religious beliefs makes some sense. A private business owner should be able to do business — or not — with anyone he/she chooses. On one hand, the government has no business telling any citizen who they must offer their business services to. It reeks of government overreach. But without such federal involvement, some businesses might still refuse to serve minorities.

Same-sex marriage is offensive to some based on their religious beliefs. And the Bill of Rights has something to say about freedom of religion, specifically that government shouldn’t “prohibit the free exercise thereof.”

Proponents of same-sex marriage cite the 14th Amendment, which provides equal protections under the law.

The issue isn’t likely to be settled anytime soon — at least at the state level. Mississippi won’t be the last state where legislation like this is considered. Supporters and opponents both should prepare for a long and painful legal battle.