Woman asks Mississippi court to dismiss same-sex divorce case from California wedding

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A woman is asking a Mississippi court to throw out a divorce petition filed by the wife she married in California, arguing that Mississippi can’t grant a divorce because it doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon traveled to California to get married in 2008, but they lived together in Southaven, Miss. Czekala-Chatham still lives in Mississippi. Melancon lives in Arkansas.

Czekala-Chatham filed for divorce in north Mississippi’s DeSoto County Chancery Court on Sept. 11. She wants Mississippi to recognize the marriage so she can get a divorce.

Melancon’s lawyer, Chadwick Reeves, filed a motion Monday to dismiss the divorce complaint.

The motion cites Mississippi statue: “Any marriage between persons of the same gender is prohibited and null and void from the beginning. Any marriage between persons of the same gender that is valid in another jurisdiction does not constitute a legal or valid marriage in Mississippi.”

“Even though the parties were legally married in California, the State of Mississippi lacks any legal basis to grant the Plaintiff a divorce because there is no marriage to dissolve under the laws of this state,” Reeves wrote.

A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 2.

Czekala-Chatham could potentially pursue a divorce in California, which exempts some same-sex couples from residency requirements for that purpose, but the California courts may not be able to issue rulings on matters like property ownership, alimony and children, according to the state’s court website.

Czekala-Chatham has said she lives in Mississippi and should be able to get a divorce in Mississippi.

Czekala-Chatham’s divorce petition alleges adultery and habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. She wants the couple’s house in Mississippi and alimony.

The petition says that Melancon now lives in Osceola, Ark. Her attorney did not immediately respond to a message Wednesday.

Czekala-Chatham’s lawyer, Wesley Hisaw, said last week that granting the divorce would not mean that that same-sex couples could get married in Mississippi because that’s banned under state statute. He says his client only wants the marriage recognized so she can get a divorce.

Similar cases have popped up in other parts of the U.S. Same-sex couples are trying to use the courts to have their unions recognized by states that prohibit gay marriage following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The Texas Supreme Court recently said it will consider whether it has jurisdiction over same-sex divorce cases and scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 5. At least two same-sex couples have filed for divorce in the state, which does not permit gay marriage.