Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant
On November 25, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves ruled in this federal legal case that denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in Mississippi is unconstitutional. The case 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.
Attorney General Jim Hood has said that he will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, where two other marriage cases out of Texas and Louisiana are already scheduled for oral argument on January 9, 2015.
On October 20, 2014, 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 in the case are Andrea Sanders and Rebecca Bickett, who want to marry in their home state, and Jocelyn Pritchett and Carla Webb, 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.
Czekala-Chatham v. Melancon
On December 3, a judge denied a same-sex couple's petition to have their marriage respected in Mississippi for the purpose of getting a divorce. The plaintiffs intend to appeal the case.
On September 11, 2013, a Mississippi woman asked the state to recognize her out-of-state marriage to a woman for the purpose of filing for divorce. The woman, Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham, had married her wife, Dana Ann Melancon, in California in 2008. The couple lived together in Southaven, Mississippi but separated in 2010.
The lawsuit was filed in DeSoto County Chancery Court. Under Mississippi law, it is unclear whether the plaintiffs' out-of-state marriage can be terminated, because Mississippi does not respect marriages between same-sex couples.