The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a Mississippi law allowing government workers and private individuals to opt out of participating in same sex marriages, giving hope to conservative activists that similar laws just approved in Texas will be upheld, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The Fifth Court's jurisdiction also includes Texas.
At issue is a threatened court challenge to the newly signed Texas law that allows County Clerks to refuse to allow their name to appear on same sex marriage licenses.
The Appeals Court's unanimous verdict was based on the fact that none of the people who were suing over the laws could prove 'actual harm.' They pointed out that the Mississippi law, like laws approved and debated in Texas, require that before a person 'opts out' of, for example, providing goods and services for same sex marriages, they insure there is someone available to provide the services.
"A mere offense taken by a law does not permit a constitutional challenge to proceed in federal court," the justices ruled. "The failure of the plaintiffs to asset anything more than a general stigmatic injury dooms their claim to standing."
The 'religious freedom' laws are being pushed by conservatives after florists and bakers were sued and in some cases faced criminal charges for refusing to participate in same sex marriages, and a county clerk in Kentucky was thrown in jail for refusing to put her name on a same sex marriage license.
Jonathan Saenz, an attorney who heads Texas Values, a conservative activist group, says the court's ruling should convince Texas lawmakers to approve several other same sex marriage opt out provisions which were considered by the Legislature but not approved.
"The Fifth Circuit’s ruling is a sweeping and resounding victory for the cause of religious freedom, and a defeat to those who have sought to bully and coerce devout Christians into participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies," Saenz said. This unanimous ruling shows that Texas and other States within the Fifth Circuit can enact similar conscience-protection laws without fear of judicial invalidation."
Saenz and other activists immediately urged Gov. Abbott to place additional 'religious freedom' measures on the agenda for the upcoming special session."