Federal judge in Mississippi rules marriage ban unconstitutional

The latest in a landmark string of court victories for the freedom to marry came today, November 25, from Mississippi, where a federal judge has ruled the state's constitutional amendment denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples unconstitutional. The ruling is stayed for 14 days pending appeal.

U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves ruled today in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, a federal legal case challenging Missisippi's anti-marriage amendment. The judge struck down the marriage ban, the 56th court ruling since June 2013 in favor of the freedom to marry. Just four courts - most notably, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit - upheld marriage discrimination. Plaintiffs from the 6th Circuit cases, out of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, are now seeking review from that out-of-step ruling from the United States Supreme Court. The plaintiffs in a case out of Louisiana, where a federal judge upheld marriage discirmination in September, are also seeking Supreme Court review.

The case in Mississippi was brought on behalf of two same-sex couples and the Campaign for Southern Equality by private counsel, including Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and Mississippi attorney Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson. In 2013, Kaplan led Windsor v. United States, the case that brought down the core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act at the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013. Freedom to Marry congratulates the legal teams, the plaintiffs, and the Campaign for Southern Equality on the exciting victory.

Read the full ruling here.

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, said today:

I am overjoyed that gay and lesbian families in Mississippi are finally equal under the law and that a shameful, discriminatory law has been struck down. As soon as marriages begin, gay Mississippi families will be able to conduct their lives knowing that a safety net of legal protections surrounds them, and knowing that their fundamental dignity has been affirmed by their home state.

Roberta Kaplan added:

Soon, families throughout this country will be gathering together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Our clients and thousands of other gay people throughout the State of Mississippi can now enjoy their turkey and apple pie with their families thankful that a court has recognized that their government must treat them the same as everyone else. This is a big day since it means that gay Mississippians will have the right to be married in their own home state that they love so much. It is also a big day for our country and for our Constitution, since it means that Americans in yet another state can now appreciate that gay people, who are their neighbors, friends and family members, have the right to equal protection of the laws.

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson said today:

Couples building a life together in Mississippi deserve the same freedom to marry as any other Americans, and today yet another court has affirmed Mississippians' freedom to marry and their equality under the Constitution. It is time for the United States Supreme Court to take up a case and end marriage discrimination once and for all.

In total, 56 decisions have been issued in favor of the freedom to marry in state and federal court since June 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in Windsor v. United States. Thirty-two rulings have been issued in federal court, fifteen have been issued in state court, and five have been issued by a federal appellate court. See all of the marriage rulings here.

Learn more about the Campaign for Southern Equality here