The Mississippi senate on Monday unanimously passed a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The resolution defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman and provides that gay marriages in other states would not be legally recognized in Mississippi. Mississippi banned same-sex marriages by law in 1997. The proposed amendment would protect that law from legal challenges, said Sen. Bobby Chamberlin (R-Hernando), a member of the senate constitution committee. If the resolution is approved in the house, where a similar measure has passed, the proposed amendment would be put on the ballot for voters in November to decide if the state constitution should be changed. "A constitutional amendment certainly carries with it more weight,"
Chamberlin said. "Sometimes preventive medicine is best."
Jody Renaldo, executive director of Equality Mississippi, a statewide gay rights organization, said lawmakers are "putting the cart before the horse." Renaldo said gays in the state are still fighting discrimination in housing and employment. Renaldo said he has not heard of any same-sex couples attempting to get married in Mississippi. However, he said it is possible some gay couples have traveled to San Francisco or New York, where such ceremonies have been performed in recent weeks. "Nothing has occurred yet as far as within the state borders," Renaldo said. "The Mississippi lawmakers are overreacting. In general, politicians around the country are."
Sen. Gloria Williamson (D-Philadelphia) on Monday questioned whether the state amendment would violate a couple's civil rights. "There were a lot of ceremonies conducted in our past, for instance, jumping the broom," Williamson said. "Was any of that legal? Were none of those people ever really married? Did they not ever love each other?" She said the constitutional amendment would "prove somebody else's point." Renaldo said Monday's senate action is not surprising. He said Equality
Mississippi will soon begin a campaign to inform the public about the issue through television and print advertisements. "We're going to be prepared for the ballot initiative in November," Renaldo said. "The state legislators have spoken. Now it's time for the people of Mississippi to speak."