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Legal time spent on religious freedom bill racking up

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Hood said his office has spent more than 400 hours defending House Bill 1523, which allows government officials and businesses not to provide services for same-sex weddings.

The legislation, passed during the 2016 session, was struck down recently by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Hood recently said he is not sure whether he will appeal Reeves’ ruling, though, Gov. Phil Bryant already has filed an appeal, relying on his staff attorney to handle the case.

“We haven’t made a final decision yet whether we’ll appeal my particular case,” Hood said recently.

Hood lamented the frequency of what he called “political” legislation being passed in the state in recent years, citing House Bill 1523 as an example of that.

“It has affected our ability to properly defend other cases,” Hood said.

Rachael Ring, a spokeswoman for Hood, said the 442.5 hours spent defending the case does not include “the hours spent by Attorney General Hood himself or other attorneys consulted in the office.”

She said using “the prevailing market rate” for attorneys for similar lawsuits would equate to $154,875 spent by the office of the Attorney General on the case.

Reeves wrote in overturning the law that it attempts to “put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others.”

The law defines marriage as between a man and a woman, stipulates that sex should only take place within a marriage and that the gender determined at birth cannot be altered.

The governor said in his appeal, “It is perfectly acceptable for the government to choose the conscientious scruples that it will protect and accommodate, while withholding those protections and accommodations from other deeply held belief.”

While not saying whether he would continue to defend the legislation in court, Hood said church-going people were “duped” into supporting legislation that does not do what its supporters purported.

He said the U.S. Constitution already protects the rights of religious leaders and churches not be involved in same-sex marriage ceremonies and that there is no state law forcing business owners to provide services for a gay marriage.

Hood said federal law most likely would force a restaurant to provide “lunch counter”  services. But he said existing law would not force a cake maker, for instance, to provide services for same-sex marriages. He said publicized cases where cake makers faced fines or other penalties for not providing the services occurred in states that specifically passed laws requiring them to provide services.

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3 comments

  1. Its time to elect a Republican as AG.

    • It’s time to elect a Governor with common sense not pass dumb laws that will get overturned in court.

    • At a time when the State has to raid the rainy day fund and cut other programs/expenses in order to maintain a balanced budget, wasting tax payer money to continue fighting a bill (the legality of which would ultimately be struck down by the US Supreme Court should the court cases even make that far)……we don’t need a new AG, we need a new Governor. This isn’t about Democrat or Republican, this is about common sense!

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