Same-sex couples fight for marriage in Mississippi

EDITORS' NOTE: Keep up on all of how marriage is moving forward nationwide with this round-up.

Today, October 20, a new federal legal case was filed seeking the freedom to marry in Mississippi on behalf of the Campaign for Southern Equality and two same-sex couples. The lead attorney, Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, led the case that brought down the core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act at the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013. Plaintiffs are also represented by Mississippi attorney Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson, Mississippi.

The couples are Andrea Sanders and Rebecca Bickett, who want to marry in their home state, and Jocelyn Pritchett and Carla Webb (pictured), who are fighting for their marriage in Maine to be respected back home.

Lead counsel Roberta Kaplan, who also represented Edie Windsor in the landmark case United States v. Windsor, said:

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.

Plaintiff Jocelyn Pritchett underscored the importance of her marriage being respected where she lives:

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.

Freedom to Marry has been proud to partner with the Campaign for Southern Equality over the course of the last several years; this year, the Campaign for Southern Equality was one of 16 partner organizations for Southerners for the Freedom to Marry. The organization was also at the forefront of the fight in North Carolina, developing strategy on General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper, one of the legal cases that brought the freedom to marry to North Carolina.

This case comes after the United States Supreme Court denied review in five cases involving the freedom to marry earlier this month, paving the way for the rapid spread of marriage between same-sex couples in many states across the country. Currently, there are two cases involving the freedom to marry before the 5th Circuit, of which Mississippi is a part. These cases originated in Texas and Louisiana, where in February a federal judge ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in TX and, where in a stunning, out-of-step ruling, a federal judge upheld marriage discrimination in LA.

This is the first case seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Mississippi filed in federal court.

Read more about litigation in Mississippi here.