Mississippi's controversial same sex marriage law

Published: Oct. 10, 2017 at 2:20 PM CDT
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The nation's most controversial law regarding same sex marriage went into effect Tuesday in Mississippi. House Bill 1523 was signed into law last year, but since then has been stalled due to challenges in court. The new law allows government workers or private businesses to cite religious beliefs to deny services to individuals based on certain criteria.

Lauderdale County Circuit Clerk Donna Jill Johnson does not expect the law to have any effect on how things are done in her office and in most others around the state.

"Nothing has changed in our office," says Johnson, "and I've spoken to offices in the other 81 counties with the circuit clerks and they're not doing anything differently than what they've done over the last two years."

However, the law allows employees - who provide any services related to a wedding or marriage - the option of not serving individuals based on their beliefs. Those convictions must align with three concepts which are:

1. That marriage is between a man and woman.

2. That sex should not occur outside of such marriage.

3. A person's gender is determined at birth.

Although the new law is now officially in effect, Johnson says marriage licenses are expected to still be issued to traditional and same sex couples statewide. In fact, with same sex marriage licenses not readily issued in parts of some states, including Alabama, Johnson says it's likely that some same sex couples will continue to come to the Magnolia State to get one.

"I would guess that we have issued within our office licenses for ten same sex couples from Alabama over the last two years," says Johnson.

In 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to same sex marriage. Mississippi's newly enacted Religious Freedom Law was one of many similar measures that were introduced in the U.S. following that landmark ruling.

Here's a time-line for Mississippi's Religious Freedom Law, which is known as House Bill 1523. It was passed by the state house last February. Governor Phil Bryant amended it and signed it into law in April 2016.