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Religious Tolerance logo

2014: The path towards same-sex marriage
(SSM) & marriage equality in Mississippi:

Part 2:
Lawsuit "Campaign for Southern Equality, et. al.
v. Bryant, et. al.
" filed in federal District Court.

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In this web site, the term "LGBT" refers to the Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual community.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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Map of U.S. with Mississippi highlighted 2014-OCT-20: Lawsuit #2: "Campaign for Southern Equality, et. al. v. Bryant, et. al." was filed in federal District Court:

The Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) promotes marriage equality throughout the Southern U.S. states. They filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking marriage equality in Mississippi. The plaintiffs include two same-sex couples. One was married out-of-state and is attempting to have their marriages recognized in Mississippi. The other couple is unmarried and wants to marry in Mississippi where they live.

CSE spokesperson Aaron Sarver said:

"We're hoping the case will move quickly." 1

Marriage equality in Mississippi is of particular interest because, according to the Williams Institute, 26% of same-sex couples in the state are raising children. This is the highest percentage of any state in the Nation.

Executive Director Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara of the CSE said:

"All across Mississippi, we work with loving, committed LGBT families who are proud to call the state home. But they also suffer the harms of discrimination daily. Equality cannot come quickly enough to Mississippi for these families." 1

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is a minister in the United Church of Christ and is the executive director of CSE. She said:

"As a minister, I hold religious freedom as a core value in our nation. My faith tradition blesses same-sex marriages. Other faith traditions do not. With this lawsuit, we are not seeking to change anyone's beliefs or religious practices. We are seeking to change a law that harms Mississippi families on a daily basis.

Across the country and across the South – from Arkansas to North Carolina to West Virginia – courts have ruled that laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, finding that there are no valid legal arguments to defend such laws. It is time for Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage to be struck down as well." 2

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Roberta Kaplan is the lead counsel for the plaintiffs. She was also the lead counsel in United States v. Windsor-- the landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court during 2013. In "Windsor", the high court declared the key section in the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional on 2013-JUN-26. It also is the lawsuit that triggered dozens of subsequent marriage equality cases in state and federal courts seeking marriage equality. Court rulings have almost universally favored the legalization of same-sex marriage.

She is quoted on the Freedom To Marry web site as saying:

"The Supreme Court took a gigantic step forward last year in Windsor, and since then, dozens of courts around the country have followed suit so that today, gay people in thirty-two states have the right to marry. It is now time to take the next big step by making sure that gay families in Mississippi are accorded these same protections. The Supreme Court has made it clear that no matter where a gay person lives —whether it is in Maine, Minnesota, or Mississippi—our Constitution requires that they be treated with the same dignity and respect under the law as everyone else." 3

[By the last time that this essay was updated, 2014-NOV-28, the number of states with marriage equality had risen to 36 plus the District of Columbia.]

According to the Towleroad web site, she said:

"As the lawyers who represented Edie Windsor, we are so honored to be able to file this case today on behalf of Rebecca Bickett, Andrea Sanders, Jocelyn Pritchett, Carla Webb, and the Campaign for Southern Equality. ..." 4

She also said:

"We look forward to presenting our arguments to Judge Reeves on [2014-] November 12. We are confident that, having read the briefs and heard our arguments, the Court will grant the relief that our clients seek –- namely, the right to be treated like all other Mississippi families who love and care for each other, pay their taxes, and do their best to raise their kids." 5

And:

"We are hopeful that the freedom to marry will soon become a reality for LGBT families all across Mississippi and that the harms of discrimination that have been felt by so many will soon cease." 5

And:

"We're not arguing that any church or any synagogue in Mississippi has to have marriage ceremonies. We're arguing that if the government, the state government in Mississippi, is going to offer marriage to straight couples, it is going to have to offer it to gay couples, as well." 6

The plaintiffs are also represented by Mississippi attorney Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, a law firm located in Jackson, MS.

The lawsuit includes the Campaign for Southern Equality as a plaintiff, in addition to two lesbian couples in loving, committed same-sex relationships's. They are:

  • Rebecca Bickett and Andrea Sanders, an engaged couple who want to be married in Mississippi. They are raising twin sons and have been together for a decade.

  • Jocelyn Pritchett and Carla Webb who ware legally married in Maine during 2013. They want Mississippi to recognize their marriage. They are raising a two-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter, and have been together for 11 years.

Rebecca Bickett issued a statement, saying:

"My family is no less a family than any other."

However, this is not how Mississippi views their relationship. They are treated as "legal strangers" -- as mere roommates.

Jocelyn Pritchett issued a statement, saying:

"It's time we are able to live with legal protections in our home state. We love Mississippi. It is home for us and we have many beautiful friends and family members here. We hope to help create a Mississippi that reflects the hospitality of her people – by creating a legally safe environment for all Mississippi families." 7

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The defendants are Governor Phil Bryant (R), state Attorney General Jim Hood (D), and Hinds County Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn (D). All are defendants in their capacity as state or county officials. Dunn had refused to issue a marriage license to Rebecca Bickett and Andrea Sanders during 2014-MAY.

Clerk Dunn said:

"I took an oath to uphold the law and the [state] constitution, and that's what I have to do."

The CSE has filed a motion for preliminary injunction and a preliminary injunction brief. The lawsuit states in part:

"These constitutional provisions and statutes deny gay couples and their families the dignity enjoyed by other Mississippians. They also deny gay couples a huge number of significant and concrete rights, benefits and duties that automatically come with marriage."

A hearing on this motion was scheduled for the morning of 2014-NOV-12.

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This topic is continued in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Emily Le Coz, "Lawsuit challenges Mississippi gay marriage ban ,"The Clarion-Ledger," 2014-OCT-20, at: http://www.clarionledger.com/
  2. Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, "Mississippi families can't wait any longer for marriage equality," The Clarion-Ledger, 2014-OCT-30, at: http://www.clarionledger.com/
  3. "Czekala-Chatham v. Melancon," Freedom to Marry, 2014, at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/
  4. Kyler Geoffrov, "Windsor lawyer files lawsuit challenging Mississippi's gay marriage ban," Towleroad, 2014-OCT-20, at: http://www.towleroad.com/
  5. "Hearing set for November 12 in Mississippi marriage equality case," Campaign for Southern Equality, 2014-OCT-22, at: http://www.southernequality.org/
  6. "Mississippi Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Challenged in Suit," Jackson Free Press, 2014-OCT-21, at: http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/
  7. "Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant," Campaign for Southern Equality, undated, at: http://www.southernequality.org/

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Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > Same-sex marriage > SSM Menu > Mississippi > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> Same-sex marriage> SSM Menu > Mississippi > here

Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2014-OCT-22
Last updated 2014-NOV-28
Author: Bruce A Robinson
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