Christians who support traditional marriage in US states have been protected by two appeal court rulings.
In Mississippi, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed a Bill protecting people in the state from being forced to participate in same-sex weddings.
A similar ruling was made in North Carolina, allowing court officials to opt out of performing same-sex marriages.
Mississippi’s ‘Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act’, HB 1523 was signed into law last year by state Governor Phil Bryant.
It had been blocked by an injunction from District Judge Carlton Reeves but the appeal court has now overruled his decision.
The court ruled to protect people with sincerely-held religious beliefs from discrimination from the Government and its “political subdivisions”.
Speaking afterwards, Gov. Bryant said the Bill “simply prevents government interference with the constitutional right to exercise sincerely held religious beliefs”.
Andy Gipson, a state representative for Mississippi and a co-author of the Bill, thanked the Governor for “taking the lead in defending it in court” and celebrated the outcome as a “victory for religious freedom and the First Amendment”.
Religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) helped to write the Bill.
ADF attorney Kevin Theriot said its purpose was to ensure “that Mississippians don’t live in fear of losing their careers or their businesses simply for affirming marriage as a husband-wife union”.
There are petitions for a rehearing of the Bill, but the court is yet to grant any of these requests.
In North Carolina, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favour of court officials’ religious liberty following a lengthy legal dispute.
In 2014, the legislation was put forward after several Christian magistrates resigned their posts when same-sex marriage was legalised in the state.
The legislation was vetoed by state Governor Pat McCrory, but both the Senate and the state House voted to override his decision in 2015.
Their judgment now means that court officials in North Carolina who have a “sincerely held religious objection” can now exempt themselves from all wedding ceremonies without being prosecuted for failing to perform the duties imposed on them by law.
Mat Staver, founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, welcomed the court’s decision.
“We celebrate this victory for North Carolina magistrates who have the constitutional right to follow their conscience and rights to free exercise without fear of punishment.”