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State of Mississippi
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Current Status

  • On 25 November 2014, U.S.District Judge Carlton Reeves issued a Preliminary Injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the ban on same-sex marriage. On 4 December 2014, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay to Reeves' ruling. See Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant under LAWSUITS-PENDING below.
  • 1 marriage case in Federal District Court; 1 same-sex divorce case in the state Supreme Court.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

  • Mississippi is the state that, historically, has polled the lowest in public support for marriage equality. Studies indicate the percentage of those opposed has gone down by about 1-2 percent per year since 2004. 
  • January 2014, the university town of Starkville became the first city in MS to adopt a symbolic inclusivity resolution asserting the worth of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • 3 April 2014, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed into law SB 2681, a “religious liberty” bill that could be used to justify various forms of discrimination, including anti-LGBT discrimination. The law became effective 1 July 2014.
  • 5 September 2014,  Starkville became the first municipality in the state to offer domestic-partner benefits to city employees. The Board of Aldermen approved the measure unanimously. Mayor Parker Wiseman also announced plans to appoint two liaisons to work with LGBT residents.
  •  Marriage equality was banned by state statute and 2004 constitutional amendment from 2004 until 2014.

Legislation - Pending

None.

Legislation - Enacted

SB2681 Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act; enact and modify the great seal

Author/Sponsor: Senator Gandy, Senator Hudson, Senator Jolly, Senator Smith, Senator Tindell, Senator Chassaniol, Senator Parker, Senator Polk, Senator Watson, Senator Burton, Senator Carmichael, Senator Fillingane, Senator Hale, Senator Harkins, Senator Jackson, Senator Lee, Senator Longwitz, Senator Ward, and Senator Collins
Date Introduced: 20 January 2014
Date Enacted: 1 July 2014

Description:

  • Known as “License to Discriminate” legislation, and as Mississippi’s “new Jim Crow law,” the act protects religious people from legal repercussions if they verbally condemn the lifestyle or actions of LGBTQ people. Additionally, the bill expands the definition of an individual to include businesses, and so if a business owner thinks their religious beliefs would be violated by delivering service to an LGBTQ person, the Act allows them to deny them service, a move that some have called "anti-gay segregation". Instead of simply not protecting LGBT persons from discrimination, the Act actually protects those who choose to discriminate against LGBTQ people, if they use their religion as the basis for doing so.
  • The Act reads: AN ACT TO ENACT THE MISSISSIPPI RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT; TO PROVIDE THAT STATE ACTION OR AN ACTION BY ANY PERSON BASED ON STATE ACTION SHALL NOT BURDEN A PERSON'S RIGHT TO THE EXERCISE OF RELIGION; TO AMEND THE 1818 MISSISSIPPI LAWS, ACT OF JANUARY 19, 1818, PAGE 142, TO REVISE THE GREAT SEAL OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI; TO PROVIDE THAT STATE AGENCIES SHALL CONTINUE TO USE STATIONERY AND OTHER SUPPLIES HAVING THE 1818 SEAL THEREON UNTIL SUPPLIES OF SUCH ITEMS ARE DEPLETED; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
  • 3 April 2014, the Act was approved by the governor.
  • The new state seal was unveiled on 1 July 2014.

Lawsuits - Pending

Czekala-Chatham v. Melancon

Case #:
Court Level: State Supreme Court
Date Filed: 11 September 2013
Date of Appeal: 23 December 2013

Description:

  • On 11 September 2013, Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham asked the state to recognize her out-of-state marriage to a woman for the purpose of filing for divorce. Czekala-Chatham had married her wife, Dana Ann Melancon, in California in 2008. The couple lived together in Southaven, Mississippi but separated in 2010.
  • 3 December 2013, a Mississippi judge refused to grant the divorce, saying the marriage wasn't recognized under state law.
  • 15 September 2014, the Mississippi Supreme Court said it will hear this case, rather than assigning it to the Court of Appeals.
  • 16 September 2014, the Court approved Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant's motion to intervene. The governor is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom and is opposing Lauren Czekala-Chatham's appeal.
  • 23 May 2014, the appellant, Czekala-Chatham, filed her brief.
  • 25 August 2015, the State of Mississippi filed its brief.
  • 22 November 2015, oral arguments were scheduled for 21 January 2015. Mississippi Supreme Court schedules arguments in same-sex divorce case - By Jack Elliott Jr., AP, via LGBTQNation
  • 21 January 2015, the Mississippi Supreme Court heard oral arguments. Here is video of today's argument. The justices enter around the 5:40 mark. For reference, here is the Mississippi Amendment, Article XIV, section 263A of the Mississippi Constitution: "Marriage may take place and may be valid under the laws of this state only between a man and a woman. A marriage in another state or foreign jurisdiction between persons of the same gender, regardless of when the marriage took place, may not be recognized in this state and is void and unenforceable under the laws of this state"
  •  24 February 2015, the Court ordered the parties to provide additional briefs on the question: "In light of Mississippi's public policy of not allowing or recognizing a marriage between two persons of the same gender, what rational basis supports the interpretation or application of a law or constitutional provision so as to prohibit Mississippi courts from granting a divorce to a Mississippi resident who was lawfully married in another state to a person of the same gender?" Justices Chandler, King and Kitchens object.

Lawsuits - Resolved

Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant 

Case #: 3-14-cv-00818
Court Level: 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
Date Filed: 21 October 2014
Date of Ruling: 1 July 2015

Description:

Ballot Initiatives - Pending

None.

Ballot Initiatives - Passed

None.

Polls

  • November 2013 polling results from Public Policy Polling showed that 49% of Mississippians supported some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples; up from 38% only a couple years ago. However, only 22% of Mississippi voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage. Poll Details
  • 12 July 2013, HRC President Chad Griffin stated that results of a bipartisan poll looking at Mississippians’ positions on LGBT issues showed 58 percent of Mississippians under 30 supported marriage equality. The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic firm, and Target Point Consulting, a Republican firm, from 26 June 2013 – 9 July 2013.