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Marriage Equality

Southern Governor Fights Same-Sex Marriage — And Lesbian Divorce

Southern Governor Fights Same-Sex Marriage — And Lesbian Divorce


Governor Phil Bryant has aligned himself with the antigay Alliance Defending Freedom in opposing the state's sole challenge to its marriage ban.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has joined forces with the antigay group Alliance Defending Freedom to oppose an attempt by two women to obtain a divorce.

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham married her wife, Dana Ann Melancon, in California in 2008. They subsequently moved to Mississippi, and asked the state to grant a divorce in September of 2013 -- which would technically require the state to first recognize the women's marriage. A court denied that request and the women appealed, with the case now pending before the state Supreme Court.

The court on Tuesday approved Bryant's request to formally intervene as a defendant in the case. In his brief making such a request, the Republican governor claimed that Mississippi's antigay marriage laws "are neither unusual or novel," and that the state reserves the "essential authority to define the marital relation," according to theDeSoto Times.

There's no telling when the court will issue a decision. The judges may schedule oral arguments, or may simply wait for a marriage decision from the Fifth Circuit or U.S. Supreme Court. Cases are currently pending before the Fifth Circuit in Texas and Louisiana.

The ADF may be best known for representing the Proposition 8 proponents in California. The group also represented a New Mexico photographer who refused to photograph a civil commitment ceremony, as well as officials in Virginia and Oklahoma who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

ADF claims responsibility for creating the "Day of Truth" to counter the Gay and Lesbian Education Network's annual Day of Silence, during which the ADF encourages students to speak against gay and lesbian peers. The annual event is now managed by Focus on the Family.

There is currently no other litigation underway in Mississippi, though the Campaign for Southern Equality has launched a campaign to push state officials to recognize out-of-state licenses.

On August 13, couples across the state recorded their licenses with local clerks, with mixed results. Some couples were successful, while others were turned away. While recording an out-of-state license does not automatically grant any rights to a couple, it opens the door to litigation down the road that could challenge the state's marriage ban.

A 2013 survey by Public Policy Polling showed just 22 percent of voters support marriage equality, with 69 percent opposed.

Earlier this year, Gov. Bryant signed into law a bill that gives businesses the right to refuse service to individuals or groups based on the sincerely held religious beliefs of the buisiness owner, earning the dubious distinction of becoming one of the only states where such a "license to discriminate" was successfully passed into law.

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Matt Baume