Plaintiffs: Mississippi law takes sides in religious debate

Gay rights groups and others are asking a federal appeals court to keep blocking a Mississippi law that would let merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves halted the law before it could take effect July 1, ruling it unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for LGBT people.

Gov. Phil Bryant and other supporters of the law say it protects beliefs that marriage can be between only a man and a woman, and that a person's gender is determined at birth and cannot be changed.

Gay and straight plaintiffs who sued the state filed papers Friday with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying the law gives "special protections to one side" in a religious debate.