(AP) Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said Friday that same-sex marriages cannot take place immediately in the state.
Couples started applying for marriage licenses within moments of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriage nationwide.
But, Hood, a Democrat, said a federal appeals court in New Orleans must first lift a hold on a gay-marriage court case from Mississippi. He said he doesn’t know how long that could take.
Hood’s statement created confusion — and frustration — among some same-sex couples who stood in line at circuit clerks’ offices to apply for licenses.
Tiffany Brosh and Laurin Locke of Pearl filled out an application in Hinds County. So did Knol Aust and Duane Smith of Jackson.
Brosh, 26, said she and Locke, 24, have been together three years and had a wedding last October in Ocean Springs, but it wasn’t legally binding because of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Brosh said they were disappointed about not being able to legally marry on Friday.
“Good things come to those who wait,” Brosh said. “What’s a little bit longer?”
Aust, 39, and Duane Smith, 40, both from Jackson, have been a couple 17 years. Aust said he thought it was possible clerks might not immediately issue marriage licenses, “but it did sting a little.”
They were hoping to marry Friday, with a more elaborate celebration later. Hood’s statement appeared to put their plans on hold, at least temporarily.
“We have always felt we had a marriage,” Aust said. “We’re more than happy to get this legal portion out of the way.”
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said the Supreme Court ruling takes away states’ right to regulate marriage.
“Today, a federal court has usurped that right to self-governance and has mandated that states must comply with federal marriage standards — standards that are out of step with the wishes of many in the United States and that are certainly out of step with the majority of Mississippians,” Bryant said.
Two lesbian couples and a gay-rights group, Campaign for Southern Equality, sued Mississippi last year over the state’s 1997 law and 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. A federal judge overturned the ban but put marriages on hold while the state appealed.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Nov. 25 overturned the state’s definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman, but same-sex couples were temporarily banned from marrying in Mississippi while the state asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Reeves’ ruling. The appeals court heard arguments but did not rule.
Reeves agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that same-sex couples deserve equal protection under the law, as defined by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He also wrote that legalizing same-sex marriage would encourage development of stable families.
Hinds County Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn said two couples filled out applications Friday at her Jackson office before Hood issued his statement.
“They came in, applied and paid their money,” Dunn said. “I told them if they would allow me to keep this, when it became law we would already have them ready to go.”