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Federal Judge Could Strike Down Mississippi's Gay Marriage Ban This Week: VIDEO

Mississippi

Mississippi's gay marriage ban goes before a U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves tomorrow morning. As we reported last month, the Court put Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, which is being led by DOMA lawyer Roberta Kaplan, on a fast-track after it was filed in October.

MississippiSaid Kaplan at that time:

“By setting the schedule that it did, the Court clearly appreciated the need for expedition on issues of such great constitutional and practical import. We look forward to presenting our arguments to Judge Reeves on 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."

BryantMississippi Governor Phil Bryant (pictured) and Attorney General Jim Hood filed papers on Monday asking Reeves to uphold the state's ban, the AP reports:

Gov. Phil Bryant and Attorney General Jim Hood responded that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases from Mississippi and two other states, has not recognized gays and lesbians as a group with specific civil-rights protections. Because of that, there is no reason for a federal district judge to give "heightened scrutiny" to claims of bias.

"Mississippi's traditional marriage laws do not discriminate," Bryant and Hood said in court papers Monday.

Jackson local news station WAPT filed a report on the hearing last night featuring interviews with two of the plaintiffs, Carla Webb and Joce Pritchett, who have a 6-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son. Pritchett and Webb were married in Maine but Mississippi won't recognize their marriage, endangering their two kids.

Rebecca "Becky" Bickett and her longtime partner, Andrea Sanders, who were denied a marriage license earlier this year, are also plaintiffs.

The best case scenario would be for the judge to agree with the plaintiffs and rule immediately, striking down the state's ban. Advocates say they will be ready with officiants to begin marrying gay couples if that happens.

Watch WAPT's report on what might happen, AFTER THE JUMP...

Read Kaplan's "Reply memorandum of law in further support of plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction" filed yesterday, below. Plaintiffs are also represented by Mississippi attorney Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson.

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Continue reading "Federal Judge Could Strike Down Mississippi's Gay Marriage Ban This Week: VIDEO" »


HRC Launches Deep South Television Campaign for LGBT Equality: VIDEO

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The Human Rights Campaign today launched the first-ever LGBT public education campaign in the Deep South - All God's Children

The first television ad features Mary Jane Kennedy, a self-described "Bible-believing born-again Christian," telling the story of her middle son coming out to her as gay and why she thinks people of faith could do a better job embracing the LGBT community.

The Associated Press reports:

TV commercials will begin airing Monday in Jackson, the state's largest city and prime media market, with Kennedy featured as a mom who struggled to understand her own sons' sexuality and believes God loves them, just like everyone else. The commercials also will be available online, as will banner ads on websites.

Other commercials may follow in Alabama and Arkansas depending on the reception and results of the Mississippi campaign. The Mississippi effort — which will cost $310,000 — is part of an $8.5 million, three-year effort launched six months ago in the three states.

Watch the spot, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "HRC Launches Deep South Television Campaign for LGBT Equality: VIDEO" »


Case Challenging Mississippi's Gay Marriage Ban Fast-Tracked

Mississippi

Earlier this week we reported that attorney Roberta Kaplan, who represented Edie Windsor in the case that struck down DOMA, had filed a challenge to Mississippi's gay marriage ban on behalf of two gay couples.

That challenge has been put on a fast track by U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves, who has set a hearing in the case, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, for November 12 at 9 am.

Said Kaplan, via press release:

“By setting the schedule that it did, the Court clearly appreciated the need for expedition on issues of such great constitutional and practical import. We look forward to presenting our arguments to Judge Reeves on 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."

Plaintiffs are also represented by Mississippi attorney Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson, Mississippi.


Windsor Lawyer Files Lawsuit Challenging Mississippi's Gay Marriage Ban

Joce and Carla

Roberta Kaplan, who served as lead counsel in the landmark United States v. Windsor decision last year, has filed a federal challenge to Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage on behalf of two gay couples. 

Said Kaplan:

Kaplan“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. 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.”

Mississippi remains one of only a handful of states that has not yet had its gay marriage ban overturned by either a federal or circuit court. 

Read the lawsuit below:


American Family Association Targets Married Mississippi Trans Man for 'Biological Fraud'

FulghamNick and Jessica Elliott Fulgham are at the center of the American Family Association's latest media offense against marriage equality because of the couple’s personal history. Nick, a trans man, is legally registered as being biologically male within Mississippi, where he married his wife late last month. Nick’s birth certificate, the AFA contends, invalidates the marriage given that same-sex marriage is not yet legal in Mississippi.

Bryan Fischer, a vocal spokesperson for the AFA and host of one of its online programs, took to his platform to publicize private information about the Fulghams in an effort to draw more unwanted attention to their personal lives.

"Two lesbians getting married could not possibly be more illegal and unconstitutional anywhere in the United States than in Mississippi," the organization said in an inflammatory statement on its website.

"Nick and I love and stand behind each other and will do whatever we have to so that we ensure our rights and prove we did everything legally," Jessica told local news station WSFA."We aren't second-class citizens; we are people just like everyone else."

Despite the AFA’s vitriolic campaign against them, the married couple has found acceptance and support within their local community. Together, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center and the Dandelion Project are holding a joint potluck reception to honor the couple’s nuptials.


Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant Intervenes In Same-Sex Divorce Case

6a00d8341c730253ef01a73d9f9dfa970d-200wiMississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) is opposing an appeal from a lesbian woman who is asking the state’s supreme court to recognize her gay marriage performed out of state so the state may subsequently grant a divorce. Bryant is being represented by the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom. The Clarion-Ledger reports:

The high court said Monday that it would hear the case instead of assigning it to the Court of Appeals. Tuesday, justices approved Bryant's motion to intervene. It's unclear if the court will hear oral arguments or when it might rule.

In 2013, DeSoto County Chancery Judge Mitchell Lundy Jr. ruled that the Mississippi Constitution and statutes prevented him from granting a divorce to Lauren Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon.

The women married in San Francisco in 2008 and bought a house in Mississippi before separating in 2010. They could divorce in California, but Czekala-Chatham says she shouldn't be treated differently than straight couples. 

Just last month, the campaign for Southern Equality urged same-sex couples in Mississippi to petition their local government offices to recognize their out-of-state unions, and at least one Mississippi couple was successful. It is unclear how that might affect the court’s ruling if at all.

Wesley Hisaw, Czekala-Chatham's lawyer, did mention that the U.S. Supreme Court may have an impact on this lower court decision. You’ll recall, SCOTUS will review five same-sex marriage cases behind closed doors on September 29.


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