A recently married couple in Jackson, Miss., are facing backlash from right-wing activists who claim that the newlywed man and woman are actually a same-sex couple who committed "fraud" to be able to marry in their state.
Nick and Jessica Elliott Fulgham were married September 18, but instead of enjoying their newly wedded bliss, the couple have endured controversy in their hometown solely because Nick is a transgender man, reports local TV station WSFA. Since Nick possesses legal documentation identifying him as male in the state of Mississippi, the couple met the state's requirements to enter into a marriage and were issued a marriage license by Desoto County Circuit Court Clerk Dale Thompson, WSFA reports.
But the Fulghams' marriage caught the ire of the American Family Association, which, in misgendering Nick as a woman, contended that his marriage was a same-sex union -- an act that remains illegal in Mississippi.
The AFA accused the Fulghams of "biological fraud," stating on its website, "Two lesbians getting married could not possibly be more illegal and unconstitutional anywhere in the United States than in Mississippi." The AFA has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2010.
Bryan Fischer, the AFA's most vocal spokesman and host of a live video and radio show on the right-wing group's Web channel, used his program on September 23 to discuss the Fulghams' marriage, showing an image of the couple's marriage license he allegedly obtained from Jessica's Facebook, reports the Washington Blade. The license showed the couple's full legal names and drew wider public attention to them, despite the acceptance they said they've received from their families and community.
"We got sick to our stomachs after we watched the video. It was very disturbing," Jessica told the Blade. Nick added that since the episode's airing, he's become fearful for his safety. He is concerned about losing his job and reports that he's read a comment on social media from a Ku Klux Klan member who allegedly stated he would "hang" the Fulghams.
However, as local attorney Shawn Lowrey pointed out to WSFA, the couple did not commit a crime when they got married. "Somewhere, somebody allowed them to change a birth certificate or license legally," he explained."There is no constitutional amendment or law in Mississippi that doesn't allow them to do that."
However, Lowrey added that the legality of the Fulghams' marriage could be contested should they seek a divorce and one party argues that they were never properly married at all -- an argument that ultimately failed in the recent high-profile divorce cases of transgender men Thomas Beatie and Buck Angel.
Despite the backlash, however, the Fulghams say they had time to enjoy their "perfect" wedding and relationship. "Nick and I love and stand behind each other and will do whatever we have to so that we ensure our rights and prove we did everything legally," Jessica told WSFA."We aren't second-class citizens; we are people just like everyone else."
Local advocacy groups, including the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center and the Dandelion Project, are holding a reception at the Hattiesburg, Miss., LGBT community center October 25 to celebrate the Fulghams' union.