Federal judge strikes down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage

The Wisconsin Gazette

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Nov. 25 struck down Mississippi’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying. The ruling on the Mississippi amendment was made public just hours after a federal judge struck down Arkansas’ ban.

“Judge Reeves’ ruling … affirms what we already know to be true — that all loving, committed Mississippi couples should have the right to marry,” said HRC Mississippi director Rob Hill. “However, there is still much to be done to advance equality here in the Magnolia State. For thousands of LGBT Mississippians, the reality remains that we risk being fired from over jobs, kicked out of our homes or refused service simply because of who we are and who we love — that’s not right. HRC Mississippi is here to ensure all Mississippians are treated with dignity and respect.”

The state can appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which already has two marriage equality cases pending before it, with oral arguments tentatively scheduled for early January.

Attorney Roberta Kaplan represented two plaintiff couples on behalf of Campaign for Southern Equality, arguing that Mississippi’s marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution. Kaplan successfully argued United States v. Windsor against the federal Defense of Marriage Act before the U.S. Supreme Court last year. The court’s ruling in that case has been cited in every state and federal court decision striking down state marriage bans since. 

Another case challenging the state marriage ban filed in state court — Czekala-Chatham v. Melancon — is on appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court after a judge denied a same-sex couple’s divorce petition, citing the state’s ban on recognition of out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples. 

The Supreme Court of the United States has pending before it marriage cases out of four states from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, after a three-judge panel of that court overturned lower court rulings that had found Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee’s same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional.

The Sixth Circuit ruling marked the first time a federal appeals court ruled in favor of state marriage bans. Previously the Supreme Court declined to take up challenges to rulings from the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Circuits, which all found state marriage bans unconstitutional.

Attorneys for the case on appeal to the Fifth Circuit out of Louisiana are appealing their case directly to the Supreme Court as well.

The Supreme Court is under no obligation as to which case or cases — if any — it chooses to hear on appeal, although the loss in the Sixth Circuit creates a circuit court split, increasing the likelihood the Supreme Court takes up the issue of marriage.