Mississippi's controversial Religious Accommodations Law is under the microscope in federal court this week. The Campaign for Southern Equality sued the state in an attempt to overturn the ban on gay marriage.
It was House Bill 1523 that prompted them to bring it back up in federal court. The issue at hand in Monday's oral argument was, does House Bill 1523 give clerks a license to ignore the same-sex marriage decisions?
"They don't want to show up at the county clerks office with the flowers, wedding dress and family only to find out that there's no one there who's going to marry them," explained the plaintiff's attorney Roberta Kaplan.
That was the focus of Monday's argument in federal court. Attorney Roberta Kaplan thinks clear public records should be available with a list of any clerk who happens to recuse themselves. But this is just a small focus of a larger case that still has to be hashed out in court this week.
"The scope of Thursday and Friday's hearing is much broader than this," Kaplan noted. "There's no question about that. It really attacks the entire statute rather than just the subsection about clerks."
The state's attorneys said no clerk has submitted notice that they plan to refuse issuing those same sex marriage licenses. And they noted the law requires them to find someone in the office who will do so. But it's the potential humiliation that couples like Jocelyn Pritchett and Carla Webb are trying to prevent for other couples.
"You don't know how you're going to be treated when you go in," added Pritchett. "And I think that's what we're trying to at least establish; who is going to serve you, who's not. Let's understand at least from the beginning, so that if you need to drive to another county, you could."
The case will be back in federal court Thursday and Friday. The goal then, to stop House Bill 1523 before it becomes law July 1.