Doesn’t look like we’re going to learn anything from the Mississippi experience.
Reeves’ ruling isn’t likely to deter Texas Republicans who have stated adamantly that Christians and others with sincerely held religious beliefs need extra protection when following their faith, particularly after the U.S. Supreme Court last year allowed gay marriage and the Obama administration earlier this year directed public schools to let transgender students use the bathroom and locker room that corresponds to their gender identity.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has urged legislators to pass a series of targeted “religious liberty” bills, many of which mirror the Mississippi law, including:
- Protecting small businesses from having to provide goods or services to same-sex couples.
- Allowing judges to refuse to perform same-sex weddings.
- Allowing government employees, such as county clerks who issue marriage licenses, to opt out of serving same-sex couples.
- Exempting religious groups from nondiscrimination laws on hiring and housing.
Legislators can begin prefiling bills in mid-November for the 2017 session, which begins Jan. 10.
Paxton on Friday criticized Reeves’ ruling as “flawed and inconsistent with the Constitution.”
“The law in Mississippi simply affirms the freedom of Americans to peacefully live and work according to their deeply held beliefs, in accordance with the First Amendment. We look forward to the Fifth Circuit upholding that common-sense law on appeal,” Paxton said in a written statement.
Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas, said Reeves’ opinion should send a clear warning to Texas legislators.
“Lawmakers shouldn’t enact laws that they know are constitutionally suspect,” she said. “We do have a history in America of trying to get around people’s constitutional rights and give discrimination the color of law. That is a really unfortunate history that we ought to be ashamed of and try not to replicate.”
If Texas tries to follow Mississippi’s lead, Robertson predicted a costly legal fight followed by a similar ruling.
“When a court says a law is not constitutional, and lawmakers try to do an end run around that, you are going to get a smack down from a federal judge,” Robertson said.
See here for the background. The ruling has yet to be appealed, so there’s no direct consequence for Texas yet. No question in my mind, it’s going to take repeated smackdowns for the message to sink in. Those smackdowns are going to have to come at the ballot box too if we really want to have a lasting effect. the best defense against bad laws being passed is electing people who won’t pass those laws in the first place.