Gov. Paul LePage, as an individual, has joined eight states in backing Mississippi’s appeal of a federal court ruling that struck down the state’s “religious freedom” law.

The law allows public employees to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if it violates their “sincerely held religious or moral convictions,” as long as the employee makes sure that the couple is able to get a license without delay. The law also would bar the state from forcing a pastor to perform, or a church to host, a same-sex wedding; from punishing foster or adoptive parents for “raising their children according to their religion’s teachings regarding same-sex marriage;” or compelling businesses, such as photographers or wedding cake makers, to provide services to a same-sex couple’s wedding if it violates their religious beliefs or convictions.

A federal district court judge struck down the law, saying it was discriminatory based on sexual orientation.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a “friend of the court” brief Thursday supporting Mississippi’s appeal of the District Court ruling. Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah also signed onto the Texas filing, and LePage is listed as supporting the brief as an individual. The brief was filed with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Timothy Feeley, a spokesman for Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, said LePage did not contact her office about seeking to have the state join the filing.

Maine voters legalized same-sex marriage in a 2012 referendum. Voters added protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to the state’s Civil Rights Act in 2005.

Maine state Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting, introduced a bill similar to the Mississippi law in early 2015, then withdrew it.

LePage’s communications staff did not return emails Friday seeking comment on the governor’s action. In May, he joined officials from 10 other states in suing the Obama administration over a federal directive saying that public schools should let transgender students use bathrooms or locker rooms that match their gender identity.

LePage was the sole governor who signed onto the suit in his personal capacity, not as a representative of the state of Maine, where the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2014 that schools cannot discriminate against transgender students.

In December, LePage also joined other Republican officials in signing a court brief in Virginia seeking to block a transgender boy’s challenge of his school’s bathroom policy.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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