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Mississippi

Lesbian couple refused use of facility for same-sex commitment ceremony

Sunday, July 15, 2012

JACKSON, Miss. — A lesbian couple in Mississippi has been refused use of a state-owned museum facility that is routinely hired out for weddings and other functions because they are gay.

The Masonic Hall at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson was the “perfect venue,” according to Veronica Rodriguez, whose daughter Ceara Sturgis and her partner, Emily Key, wanted to celebrate their commitment ceremony there.

But the museum’s director, Charlie Dixon, indicated that although the facilities are hired out to heterosexual couples, the museum has a policy barring same-sex weddings and commitment ceremonies.

Ceara Sturgis (left) and Emily Key

Dixon cited a 2009 letter from State Attorney General Jim Hood that states that the museum can limit the use of its facilities to events considered “legal” by state law — same-sex marriage is not legal in Mississippi.

On Thursday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) sent a letter to Dixon and Hood, demanding that the state end the policy or face a federal lawsuit.

Elissa Johnson, staff attorney for the SPLC wrote that the museum’s policy violates the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for viewpoint discrimination and differential treatment, respectively.

Allowing the ceremony does not compel the state to recognize the couple as legally married, the SPLC argued.

“As a mother, I have dreamed of giving my daughter the wedding that she desires, and I want her to be able to get married in her hometown in front of our family and friends,” Rodriguez told local media. “We are not asking Mississippi to recognize Ceara and Emily’s relationship, although it should. We are just asking that they have the opportunity to hold a ceremony in a public place – the same as other couples.”

“We love each other and want to spend the rest of our lives together,” Ceara Sturgis said. “Like any other couple, we want to be able to share this special day with our family and friends.”

Sturgis, 20, and her mother are no strangers to legal controversy over Ceara’s sexual orientation.

In 2009, then 17-year-old Sturgis wanted to appear in her high school yearbook and senior class photograph wearing a tuxedo, but the school officials balked. Rodriguez had said at the time, “The tux is who she is. She wears boy’s clothes. She’s athletic. She’s gay. She’s not feminine.”

The ACLU of Mississippi had sent a letter demanding school officials immediately cease violating her constitutional rights, writing “that such a requirement for gender-specific clothing is a violation of students’ rights to gender equality and self expression.”

Sturgis’ senior portrait was eventually left out of the Wesson Attendance Center yearbook.

The ACLU and the school district reached a settlement in that lawsuit, and the school’s students are now required to wear caps and gowns in senior portraits.

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Filed under: Mississippi

32 more reader comments:

  1. i’m not surprised. sad but, i’d go to new orleans or something… that whole neck of the woods is pretty backwards.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:01pm
  2. Businesses just love to lose money, customers and reputation.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:02pm
  3. One man and one woman? Bitch please, love is love, regardless of genders.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:03pm
  4. … It’s-MISSISSIPPI-people!?! DUH!!!

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:03pm
  5. Marriage in Mississippi = one brother one sister

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:04pm
  6. Jeez… they need to move.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:05pm
  7. don’t get mad, get the word out! stupid stuff such as this typically doesn’t last long when the light is shined on it! its 2012 people not 1940! :-)

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:05pm
  8. People shouldn’t have to move to love

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:06pm
  9. After the vote on Amendment 1 in North Carolina, North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue said, “We look like Mississippi.” That is how horrible a reputation Mississippi has on civil rights.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:06pm
  10. O0O0OH! This explains the previous post. Thanks!

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:06pm
  11. Get over it!! Love is love and I or no one can judge you but GOD and GOD loves everyone in his world!

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:07pm
  12. Why is Esther Jo Knirs even subscribed to LGBT news? No life or friends probably and that’s understandable with a name like Esther

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:08pm
  13. ” Dixon cited a 2009 letter from State Attorney General Jim Hood that states that the museum can limit the use of its facilities to events considered “legal” by state law — same-sex marriage is not legal in Mississippi.”

    They aren’t asking for a marriage certificate, they’re asking for a ceremony. Ceremonies aren’t illegal, assuming they don’t let underage attendees drink at the reception. That’s a perfect example of using vague phrasing to the advantage of the oppressor.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:08pm
  14. agreed. those who hate, bash and do everything they can to squash the civil rights of gays are going down in history on the same page as those who supported segregation. i would be ashamed for that to be my legacy.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:08pm
  15. The only valid marriages in those backwards states are marriages with their sisters and cousins .

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:09pm
  16. Esther, if you don’t understand compassion then why the hell did you have children? You don’t understand that everyone isn’t like you (a conservative, bigoted, white, straight Christian) CLEARLY. It’s time to wake up. By the way, trolling pages on Facebook isn’t going to change any of our minds. I reported you too, you’re kind of bullshit should be silenced.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:09pm
  17. *your

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:10pm
  18. Bullshit…. Missippi, wake up and smell the times!!!

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:11pm
  19. Hey! Time to sue hell out of some WHITE TRASH.. inbred KKKristian KKKonservative FOOLS

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:12pm
  20. No Esther, look again, it is two women. Do you have a fuckin’ problem with that?

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:14pm
  21. Wow!!!

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:23pm
  22. One man one women get off a lgbt pg and think twice before u make ur self look stupid. Then what you really are

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:24pm
  23. It’s Mississippi! WTF did they expect? White boy Bubba can marry his white gal first cousin Daisy Mae but don’t let them there homos try an git married!

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:28pm
  24. Such a truckload of horseshit! I remember Ceara Sturgis from a few years back. One headline-making discrimination story should be enough… Now another person has to shit on her? Sheesh.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:28pm
  25. I feel sorry for Esther’s children. All they will ever have is a hateful bigot of a mother and that makes me sad.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:32pm
  26. This is why I will never live in the South.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 5:37pm
  27. When a lesbian becomes President, will we still be doing this?

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 6:23pm
  28. When will America become America?

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 7:02pm
  29. To Ceara and Emily: I officially invite you to Illinois, where civil unions have been legal for just over a year. Many of us are looking forward to the day when marriage equality is a fact here in our state. We need good people such as yourself! Good luck in your life together.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 7:09pm
  30. “racism – beliefs, actions, and patters of social organization that exclude individuals and groups from the equal exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Culture Counts, Nanda and Warms, 52).

    for the opposition:
    Do your ethnocentric views deny the the same rights that you enjoy?

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 9:07pm
  31. that is such bullshit, instead of being more of racist country now we are turning into a frickin bigot country going from being an asshole to people to being an even bigger asshole america congrats.

    Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 10:25pm
  32. I so admire the courage of these young women to take this public stance in Mississippi. Kudos to both of you!

    Posted on Monday, July 16, 2012 at 9:39am