U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves Strikes Down Mississippi’s Marriage Ban, Paving the Way to Marriage Equality

The Mississippi Link Newswire

Jackson, Miss. – U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves issued a ruling this evening in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, striking down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage. Judge Reeves placed a 14-day stay on the order.

The order can be found here: http://bit.ly/1thJuaT

“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 pecan 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,” said lead counsel Roberta Kaplan.

“We are 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,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, an LGBT rights organization that works across Mississippi and is a plaintiff in the case.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Mississippi, has scheduled oral arguments in two similar marriage cases from Texas and Louisiana for the week of January 5, 2015. Currently, same-sex couples can marry in 35 states across the nation, including a growing number of Southern states.

Case Background: Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant challenges the constitutionality of marriage laws in Mississippi that ban marriage between same-sex couples and deny recognition of same-sex marriages performed out-of-state. The lawsuit was filed on October 20, 2014, on behalf of two same-sex couples – Andrea Sanders and Rebecca Bickett, and Jocelyn Pritchett and Carla Webb – and the Campaign for Southern Equality. At a November 12th hearing, plaintiffs argued for a preliminary injunction that would immediately strike down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Plaintiff Profiles:

  • Andrea Sanders and Rebecca (Becky) Bickett

    • Together since 2004.

    • Raising twin 15-month-old boys.

    • They have lived in Mississippi for the past 15 years, currently reside in Pass Christian.

  • Jocelyn (Joce) Pritchett and Carla Webb

    • Together since 2003.

    • Raising one boy and one girl.

    • Legally married in Maine in 2013.

    • Both natives Mississippi, live in Jackson.

  • Campaign for Southern Equality, a 501(c)(3) non profit that promotes LGBT equality across the South and has been actively working in Mississippi since 2012. CSE is a plaintiff in the case on behalf of the gay and lesbian families it works with across Mississippi. http://www.southernequality.org

Legal Team: Lead counsel for the plaintiffs is Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.  Plaintiffs are also represented by Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, based in Jackson, Mississippi. Kaplan was lead counsel in United States v. Windsor, the landmark case that struck down sections of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and paved the way to marriage equality from coast to coast.

LGBT Life in Mississippi:

  • An estimated 3,484 same-sex couples live in Mississippi according to 2010 Census Data

  • Mississippi has the highest rate nationally of LGBT couples raising children at 26%

  • LGBT people in Mississippi are more likely to live in poverty than heterosexual counterparts

  • Public support for marriage equality in Mississippi is growing. Among Mississippi residents

under age 30, 58% support marriage equality according to a 2013 poll

  • Under current state laws, you can be fired simply for being gay in Mississippi

Marriage Equality Nationally:

  • The federal government and federal agencies recognize same-sex marriages due to a June 2013 U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in United States v. Windsor that struck down elements of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

  • Since the Windsor ruling, federal courts across the nation have struck down state marriage bans at a breathtaking pace. Currently, 35 states allow same-sex couples to marry. Within the South, couples can marry in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.