Federal Judge Blocks Mississippi Religious Objections Law

A federal judge blocked a Mississippi law on religious objections to same-sex marriage moments before it was set to take effect Friday, ruling it unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for gay people.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that the title, text and history of the law show it is “the state’s attempt to put LGBT citizens back in their place” in response to last summer’s Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide.

“In physics, every action has its equal and opposite reaction,” Reeves wrote. “In politics, every action has its predictable overreaction.”

State attorneys are expected to appeal his ruling, which came overnight in response to two lawsuits filed by gay and straight plaintiffs.

The law sought to protect three beliefs: That marriage is only between a man and a woman; that sex should only take place in such a marriage; and that a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered.

It would allow clerks to cite religious objections to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and would protect merchants who refuse services to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. It could affect adoptions and foster care, business practices and school bathroom policies.

“The state has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others,” Reeves wrote. He also wrote that it violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee.

Republican Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523 in April, winning praise from conservative Christian groups. The Family Research Council gave him a religious freedom award for signing the bill, and Bryant said the “secular, progressive world had decided they were going to pour their anger and their frustration” on him because of the bill.

Reeves wrote: “HB 1523 favors Southern Baptist over Unitarian doctrine, Catholic over Episcopalian doctrine, and Orthodox Judaism over Reform Judaism doctrine, to list just a few examples.”

More than 100 bills were filed in more than 20 state legislatures across the nation in response to the Supreme Court gay marriage ruling, UCLA law professor Douglas NeJaime testified before Reeves last week.

State attorneys argued that the Mississippi law provides reasonable accommodations for people with deeply held religious beliefs that gay marriage is wrong.

Roberta Kaplan, an attorney who filed one of the lawsuits challenging the law, said in a statement that Reeves “enforced the fundamental constitutional principle that the government cannot establish any religion.”

“As a result, Mississippi will no longer be permitted to favor some ‘religious beliefs’ over others, and the civil rights of LGBT Mississippians will not be subordinated to the religious beliefs of only certain religious groups,” said Kaplan, who represents Campaign for Southern Equality.

Reeves notes that one section of the bill specifies that the state could not punish any religious organization that refuses to solemnize a same-sex marriage.

“There is nothing new or controversial about that section,” Reeves wrote. “Religious organizations already have that right under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

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Meet the Experts

Learn more about the scientists and scholars we talked to about solutions.

Biographies and Websites

  • Ellen Baxter

    Ellen Baxter has committed 30 years to advocacy and housing development to redress the inhumanity of homelessness in New York City and nationally. Ellen is a pioneer of supportive housing, and founded Broadway Housing Communities in 1983, a nonprofit community-based organization, which developed and manages six buildings in Washington Heights and Harlem accommodating nearly 300 households, integrating the formerly homeless and those with special needs. Dorothy Day Apartments, a groundbreaking model opened in 2003, was designed to adapt the concept of supportive housing to serve families with children, including an early childhood center, community art gallery, and is enriched by a robust calendar of civic and community events. The Uris on Sugar Hill is in construction, an $80 million development designed by David Adjaye, creating 124 apartments affordable to very low-income households, an early childhood center, and the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, scheduled for completion in early 2014 (www.broadwayhousing.org). Ellen is a founding and active Board member of the New York Coalition for the Homeless, and also serves as Vice President of the Board of St. Francis Friends of the Poor.

  • Jill Hooley

    Jill M. Hooley is a professor of psychology at Harvard University. She is also the head of the experimental psychopathology and clinical psychology program at Harvard. Dr. Hooley has a long-standing interest in psychosocial predictors of psychiatric relapse in patients with severe psychopathology such as schizophrenia and depression. Her research has been supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and by the Borderline Personality Disorder Research Foundation. She is currently using fMRI to study emotion regulation in people who are vulnerable to depression and in people who are suffering from borderline personality disorder.

  • Andrew Scull

    Andy Scull received his B.A. from Oxford University, and his Ph.D. from Princeton. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Princeton prior to coming to UCSD. His books include Museums of Madness; Decarceration; Madhouses, Mad-Doctors, and Madmen; Durkheim and the Law (with Steven Lukes); Social Control and the State (with Stanley Cohen); Social Order/Mental Disorder; The Most Solitary of Afflictions: Madness and Society in Britain, 1700-1900; and Masters of Bedlam. His articles have appeared in leading journals in a variety of disciplines, including British Journal of Psychiatry, Psychological Review; European Journal of Sociology; Medical History. He has held fellowships from (among others) the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Davis Center for Historical Studies, and in 1992-93 was the president of the Society for the Social History of Medicine.

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Explore the Episode

Links to things we referenced in the show!

Relevant Links

  • Broadway Housing Communities

    From the episode: “And many of the results that you see in Geel: a sense of belonging, a sense of community, patient’s symptoms getting better – are happening in these buildings – which by the way are called Broadway Housing Communities.”

  • Drain Wig Commercial

    From the episode: “So they began refining their solution, searching for the best materials that could reliably catch hair… and they finally settled on a name they liked – THE DRAIN WIG – they got a patent and just this fall they entered into that distinctly American landscape of infomercials.

  • “Expressed Emotions” Study

    From the episode: “Its almost like this law of the land – and in fact this effect is called the “law of expressed emotion,” the more you express these emotions, the more likely the person you are thinking about will suffer.”

Relevant Books

  • Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity

    Madness in Civilization, by Andrew Scull, traces the long and complex history of mental disturbance and our attempts to treat it. Beautifully illustrated throughout, Madness in Civilization takes readers from antiquity to today, painting a vivid and often harrowing portrait of the different ways that cultures around the world have interpreted and responded to the seemingly irrational, psychotic, and insane. From the Bible to Sigmund Freud, from exorcism to mesmerism, from Bedlam to Victorian asylums, from the theory of humors to modern pharmacology, the book explores the manifestations and meanings of madness, its challenges and consequences, and our varied responses to it. It also looks at how insanity has haunted the imaginations of artists and writers and describes the profound influence it has had on the arts, from drama, opera, and the novel to drawing, painting, and sculpture.

  • Voices of Hope for Mental Illness: Not Against, With

    We hear about inadequate mental health care. We ask questions regarding a link between mental illness and violence. We do NOT hear as much about the stigma of mental illness that complicates one’s ability to cope with a diagnosis that becomes a label, resulting in “self-stigma,”discouraging individuals from seeking and/or complying with treatment. Too often community members only “experience” mental illness through dramatic or dire media stories that fail to inform us about the real world of mental illness. Thus, stigma feeds, and is fed by, myths and misunderstandings leading to a community sense of hopelessness and fear of mental illness. In contrast, Geel, a stigma-free community in Belgium, has a centuries’ old history of accepting those with mental illness – even as boarders in their own homes. Geel acknowledges the human needs of those with mental illness and responds to those needs by providing social opportunities and meaningful work, within the community While the U.S. does not have the same history as Geel, we do have programs that offer a fostering environment, offering hope for those with a diagnosis of mental illness as well as for the communities in which they live. In a language and style that can be understood by anyone and everyone, author Jackie Goldstein shares what she’s learned and experienced regarding tolerance and inclusion – in Geel and in our own country – offering individuals and communities an opportunity to hear the encouraging “voices of hope for mental illness.” When the general population is freed of myths and misunderstandings regarding mental illness, we can focus on mental health fostered by community care that thrives in “caring communities.”

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Davey the quokka predicts victory for Australia PM Turnbull

Early voters in Australia’s July 2 general election walk to a polling centre past banners promoting Labor leader Bill Shorten (L) and Liberal Party Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Sydney’s Town Hall, June 29, 2016.

Reuters/Jason Reed


Saturday’s Australian election is too close to call for many, but Davey the quokka has predicted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal party-led coalition will run out winners over Bill Shorten’s opposition Labor.

The small four-year-old native Australian marsupial made the prediction at Wild Life Sydney Zoo on Friday after being left to choose between two jars of his favorite eucalyptus leaves, one labeled Turnbull and the other Shorten.

Davey, the size of a domestic cat, initially moved towards Shorten’s jar before changing his mind and eating the leaves in prime minister Turnbull’s pot.

Australia is set for a cliffhanger election, with Turnbull warning of economic chaos if his gamble on an early poll backfires and leaves him without the outright majority he needs to enact major reforms.

(Reporting by Reuters TV. Editing by Patrick Johnston and Michael Perry)

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NHTSA Will Look At Tesla's Autopilot Mode, After Deadly Car Crash

A Tesla Model S like the one seen here at an auto show earlier this year was in autopilot mode when it crashed into a tractor trailer.

A Tesla Model S like the one seen here at an auto show earlier this year was in autopilot mode when it crashed into a tractor trailer. Mark Schiefelbein/AP hide caption

toggle caption Mark Schiefelbein/AP

The fatal crash of a Tesla Model S car that was in autopilot mode when it collided with a truck on a Florida highway last month is prompting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open a preliminary evaluation of the automatic driving feature.

“This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated,” Tesla says in a blog post announcing the NHTSA plan. “Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles.”

The car in question was a a 2015 model of the Tesla Model S. Here’s how the company describes the crash:

“What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.”

Discussing the man who died in the crash, the company’s blog post says, “He was a friend to Tesla and the broader EV community, a person who spent his life focused on innovation and the promise of technology and who believed strongly in Tesla’s mission.”

In the post, the company also extended its sympathies to the man’s family.

Neither Tesla nor NHTSA identified the man — but several media outlets, including Forbes, are reporting his identity as Joshua Brown, 40, an Ohio technology executive and former Navy SEAL who was in Florida when the fatal accident occurred.

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1.4 Million Adults Identify As Transgender In America, Study Says

A map of the U.S. shows the number of adults who identify as transgender by state. Darker colors indicate a higher percentage.

A map of the U.S. shows the number of adults who identify as transgender by state. Darker colors indicate a higher percentage. Williams Institute hide caption

toggle caption Williams Institute

The numbers fluctuate by state, but they also double the findings from a decade ago: An estimated 1.4 million people – around 0.6 percent of U.S. adults — identify as transgender, according to a new study.

“The findings from this study are critical to current policy discussions that impact transgender people,” said Jody Herman, an author of the study. “Policy debates on access to bathrooms, discrimination, and a host of other issues should rely on the best available data to assess potential impacts, including how many people may be affected.”

The District of Columbia has the highest percentage of adults who identify as transgender, with 14,550 people — around 2.77 percent of the federal district’s population.

Several states have 100,000 or more people who identify as transgender, according to the researchers: California, with 218,000; Florida, with 100,300; and Texas, with 125,350.

The highest percentages of adults identifying as transgender per state were found in Hawaii, California, Georgia, and New Mexico — all with 0.8 percent — followed by Texas and Florida with 0.7 percent, according to the study.

Five states were found to have the lowest percentages of transgender-identified adults, all with 0.3 percent: North Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota.

In addition to being the subject of political debates over the use of services and protection from discrimination, transgender Americans were at the center of an announcement from the Pentagon today, as Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the military will no longer bar transgender Americans from serving openly. Carter also said those service members can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military because of their gender identity.

Young adults are most likely to identify as transgender, the researchers say, citing the 0.7 percent of adults ages 18 to 24 who do so.

To compile their results, researchers at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law drew on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey as well as from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which includes representative surveys of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

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