RELIGION

Federal judge blocks Mississippi religious objections law

  • FILE - In this April 4, 2016 file photo, State Rep. Jay Hughes, D-Oxford, calls on fellow lawmakers to vote against House Bill 1523, on the chamber floor at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss.  Hughes says Speaker Philip Gunn violated the state constitution by setting a computer voice at a superfast speed to read bills aloud.  (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, file)

    FILE - In this April 4, 2016 file photo, State Rep. Jay Hughes, D-Oxford, calls on fellow lawmakers to vote against House Bill 1523, on the chamber floor at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. Hughes says Speaker Philip Gunn violated the state constitution by setting a computer voice at a superfast speed to read bills aloud. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, file)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Thursday, June 23, 2016 file photo, Roberta Kaplan, a New York based attorney, representing Campaign for Southern Equality and a lesbian couple, speaks with reporters following a day of testimony at the federal courthouse in Jackson, Miss. Mississippi clerks cannot cite their own religious beliefs to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, under a ruling U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves handed down Monday, June 27. Kaplan issued a statement praising his decision. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

    FILE - In this Thursday, June 23, 2016 file photo, Roberta Kaplan, a New York based attorney, representing Campaign for Southern Equality and a lesbian couple, speaks with reporters following a day of testimony at the federal courthouse in Jackson, Miss. Mississippi clerks cannot cite their own religious beliefs to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, under a ruling U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves handed down Monday, June 27. Kaplan issued a statement praising his decision. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)  (The Associated Press)

A federal judge has blocked a Mississippi law that would let merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny or delay services to same-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves filed orders in two lawsuits blocking the law just moments before it was to take effect Friday.

State attorneys are expected to appeal his decisions.

The law would 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.

Reeves wrote that the law is unconstitutional because "the state has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others." He also wrote that it violates the Constitution's equal protection guarantee.