US Judge Blocks Mississippi LGBT Law
A U.S. federal judge has blocked a Mississippi law that would have allowed residents to refuse services to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves blocked the law late Thursday, just hours before it was meant to take effect Friday, saying it violates the constitution's equal protection guarantee.
State attorneys are expected to appeal the ruling.
The controversial law, which has left the southern state subject to boycotts and criticism, would protect three beliefs: that marriage is only between a man and a women; that sex should only take place in such a marriage; and that a person's gender is determined at birth and cannot be changed.
Local businesses also would be able to deny service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers based on religious beliefs.
Many musicians canceled shows in recent months in Mississippi and the nearby state of North Carolina, which recently passed a bill requiring transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender at birth.
Pentagon Ends Ban on Transgender Service Members
The U.S. Defense Department has lifted its ban on transgender men and women serving openly in the military.
"We have to have access to 100 percent of America's population," Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters Thursday. "Our mission is to defend this country and we don't want barriers unrelated to a person's qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the solder, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission," Carter said.
He said servicemen and women can serve openly immediately and will no longer be discharged just for being transgender.
He said there are currently an estimated 2,500 transgender people serving in active duty.
The military will begin accepting transgender Americans who meet all of the physical and mental standards “no later than one year from today,” Carter added.
The change removes one of the last barriers to military service by any individual. It comes nearly a half-decade after the formal end of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military, and less than one year after all combat positions in the military were opened to women.