1997 to 2014: The path towards same-sex
marriage (SSM) & marriage equality in Mississippi:
1997 to 2004: SSM bans passed in Mississippi.
2013: Recent polling data.
"Czekala-Chatham v. Melancon" in state court.
2014: Economic benefit if SSM permitted.
In this web site, the term "LGBT" refers to the Lesbian,
Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual community.
1997 to 2004: Same-sex marriage bans in Mississippi:
During 1997, the marriage statute in Mississippi was modified to state that marriages by same-sex marriages are:
"... prohibited and null and void from the beginning. Any marriage between persons of the same gender that is valid in another jurisdiction does not constitute a legal or valid marriage in Mississippi." 1
This change to the marriage law was apparently triggered by activity in Hawaii to legalize same-sex marriage there in the early 1990's. Many U.S. legislators on the mainland were concerned that Hawaii might attain marriage equality and that this might lead to similar changes in their state.
At the time this law was changed, there were no states in the U.S. or provinces or territories in Canada that allowed same-sex couples to marry. Massachusetts became the first state to do so, seven years later in mid-2004.
During 2004, voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution called "Amendment 1." It banned recognition of marriages by same-sex couples. The vote was 86% to 14% in favor of the ban.
Mississippi has no statutes that protect the LGBT community from discrimination. Thus, a LGBT employee can be fired if their sexual orientation or gender identity is discovered by her or his employer.
2013: Recent polling data from Mississippi:
- Published on 2013-JUL-12: Polling data was collected by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic firm, and Target Point Consulting, a Republican firm, between 2013-JUN-26 and JUL-09. It was released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Results showed that:
- 58% of Mississippians who are under 30 years-of-age supported marriage equality.
- 64% of adults in the state favor protections for LGBT employees. 56% of Republicans agreed. 2
Chad Griffin, president of HRC, commented at the time:
"The future for equality in Mississippi is bright. Our poll no doubt identifies areas where there are still hearts and minds to change, but the results confirm what we see nationwide, including here in the South: young Americans support everyone being able to marry the person they love. Fair-minded Mississippians from all walks of life also recognize that it’s wrong to fire someone simply because of who they are or who they love." 2
Referring to the victories at the U.S. Supreme Court on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in Windsor v. United States and on the Proposition 8 marriage ban by same-sex couples in California in Hollingsworth v. Perry on 2013-JUN-26 , Griffin said:
"For too many LGBT Americans -- many living right here in Mississippi -- our historic victories at the U.S. Supreme Court last month were nothing more than a headline. We will not rest until every LGBT American living everywhere in this country enjoys full equality under the law." 2
- Published on 2013-NOV-20: A poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) taken between 2013-NOV-15 and 17 showed that:
- 66% of voters believe that employers should not be allowed to discriminate against their employees based on sexual orientation. Only 28% believe that such discrimination should be legal.
- 69% feel that same-sex couples should not be able to marry, compared to 22% who favor marriage equality. This compares to about 54% to 59% support among voters in various recent national polls. Mississippi may be the most conservative state in the nation on this matter.
- A slight plurality of voters (49% to 45%) in the state favors some form of legal recognition of the relationships of same-sex couples. This typically would take the form of civil unions. 3
2013-SEP-11: Lawsuit #1: "Czekala-Chatham v. Melancon" filed in state court:
Some loving, committed same-sex couples who live in Mississippi -- where they are not allowed to marry -- travel to other elsewhere in the U.S., marry, and return home. They end up being considered a married couple where they married, in the District of Columbia, and in the 36 states that recognized same-sex marriages [as of 2014-NOV-27, when this essay was last updated]. However, they are generally considered legal strangers -- as mere roommates -- where they live. This can produce serious problems if their relationship fails and the want to obtain a divorce:
- They could return to the state where they married and file for divorce. However, that would typically require that they establish residency in that state, which could take considerable time.
- They generally could not obtain a divorce in the state where they live because that state does not recognize the existence of their marriage.
Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon were married in California during the interval between 2008-MAY when the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages, and 2008-NOV when voters in the state narrowly passed Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriages. They lived together in Southaven, MS but separated in 2010. By that time, they had bought a house together. Even if they obtained a divorce in California, the status of their house in Mississippi would be uncertain.
Ms. Czekala-Chatham filed a petition for divorce in DeSoto County Chancery Court. The state court judge denied her petition on 2013-DEC-02. Because the state did not recognize her marriage, it could not grant her a divorce. 4
She said that she was:
"a little bit disappointed. ... I would have liked to have had the divorce, but either way he ruled, it was going to be appealed." 1
2014-OCT: Estimated financial benefit to Mississippi if same-sex marriages were allowed:
Justin O'Neill et al. of the Williams Institute completed a study on the economic boost that would be experienced in Mississippi if marriage equality was attained. They concluded:
"Extending marriage to same-sex couples in Mississippi would generate an estimated $10.8 million in spending to the state economy. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the most recent data available, 3,484 same-sex couples live in Mississippi. Of those couples, the Institute estimates that fifty percent (1,742 couples) would choose to marry in the first three years, a pattern that has been observed in Massachusetts and elsewhere. The marriages that would occur in the first year alone would bring about $6.9 million in revenue to the state of Mississippi that year." 5
They also estimate that 49 to 146 jobs would be created in the tourism and recreation sectors in Mississippi.
The increased revenue would result from money spent to arrange marriages, and from money spent by the couple's relatives and friends visiting the state. 6
However, marriage equality has associated costs for the state. if Mississippi were to treat same-sex couples equally to opposite-sex couples, then the former would be able to access a few hundred benefits and protections currently offered only to opposite-sex married couples. Some of these benefits would involve costs to the state that would offset the increased revenue.
On NOV-14, we Emailed the Williams Institute asking if they have estimated these costs and whether the amount would exceed the estimated economic benefits. Two weeks have passed without a response. We don't expect any in the future.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Mississippi Judge Refuses To Grant Gay Couple A Divorce," TPM News, 2013-DEC-03, at: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/
- "New Poll Shows Optimism for LGBT Equality in Mississippi," Human Rights Campaign, 2013-JUL-12, at: http://www.hrc.org/
- "Mississippi Miscellany," Public Policy Polling, 2013-NOV-20, at: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/
- "Czekala-Chatham v. Melancon," Freedom to Marry, 2014, at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/
- Justin O'Neill, "Estimating the Economic Boost of Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in Mississippi," The Williams Institute, 2014-OCT-14, at: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/We
- "Mississippi: Extending Marriage to Same-Sex Couples Could Add Nearly $11 Million to State Economy," The Williams Institute, 2014-OCT-14, at: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/
Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally published: 2014-NOV-03
Last updated 2014-NOV-28
Author: Bruce A Robinson