Tags: Mississippi | gay | marriage | ban

Mississippi Gay-Marriage Rights Delayed by Appeals Court

Thursday, 04 Dec 2014 06:40 PM

Mississippi same-sex couples had best hold off on their rush to the altar. The federal appeals court in New Orleans temporarily blocked a lower-court ruling that would have let gay and lesbian couples legally obtain state marriage licenses beginning Dec. 10.

The appeals court, already set to hear gay-marriage challenges from Texas and Louisiana on Jan. 9, agreed to speed up Mississippi’s request to keep its prohibition against same-sex marriage intact.

It assigned Mississippi’s case to the same three-judge panel that will hear the other two cases. Mississippi was denied permission to participate in the same hearing, so gay marriage will remain illegal there at least until its fate is decided separately by the Fifth Circuit appeals court.

“As the district court recognized, a race to the courthouse, with same-sex couples rushing to the Circuit clerk’s office and the state rushing to the Fifth Circuit, does not serve anyone’s interest,” the court said in granting Mississippi’s request to keep its ban in place pending an outcome.

Judges at both levels said they want to avoid the “extreme confusion, uncertainty and chaos” that happened in Utah when its same-sex marriage ban was lifted and then reinstated as the law flip-flopped on appeal.

Mississippi is fighting to restore laws defining marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman, which were declared unconstitutional by a federal judge on Nov. 25. The judge said his order wouldn’t take effect for two weeks to give Mississippi time to appeal.

Trial Judge

U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves of Jackson, Mississippi, said the state’s ban made “second-class citizens” of gay and lesbian couples and was out of step with recent rulings upholding same-sex marriage as a constitutional right.

More than 44 federal courts have ruled that gay people have a constitutional right to marry in the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision making it illegal to deny federal benefits to same-sex spouses. Gay and lesbian couples can now marry in more than two-thirds of the states.

The Supreme Court in October refused to hear any appeals by states seeking to restore their traditional marriage laws, “instantly making marriage equality the law of the land in another large swath of the country,” attorneys fighting Mississippi’s ban said in court papers.

The majority of Mississippians disapprove of gay marriage, with 86 percent voting against legalizing it in 2004, according to Reeves’s ruling.

Opposite Rulings

In Texas and Louisiana, the New Orleans judges will examine opposite rulings.

Texas’s prohibition against gay marriage was overturned by a federal judge in Austin. Louisiana’s similar ban was upheld by one in New Orleans.

In expediting Mississippi’s appeal, the appellate court said it wasn’t commenting on the merits of either side’s arguments or discounting the seriousness of the debate between a state’s historic authority over marriage and citizens’ rights to make decisions about the “most intimate and personal aspects of their lives.”

After reviewing the opinions of the other four appellate courts that have tackled gay-marriage appeals, the New Orleans panel said it is convinced that “a detailed and in-depth examination of this serious legal issue is warranted before a disruption of a long standing status quo.”

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Mississippi same-sex couples had best hold off on their rush to the altar. The federal appeals court in New Orleans temporarily blocked a lower-court ruling that would have let gay and lesbian couples legally obtain state marriage licenses beginning Dec. 10.The appeals...
Mississippi, gay, marriage, ban
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2014-40-04
Thursday, 04 Dec 2014 06:40 PM
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