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Mississippi

Judge refuses to grant gay couple’s divorce, says marriage isn’t recognized

Monday, December 2, 2013

JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi judge on Monday refused to grant a divorce to a lesbian couple who got married in California, saying the marriage wasn’t recognized under state law, according to the woman who filed and her lawyer.

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham, who filed for the divorce in September in north Mississippi’s DeSoto County, said in a telephone interview Monday that the judge seemed sympathetic and that she plans to appeal the ruling.

DivorceCzekala-Chatham, a 51-year-old credit analyst and mother of two teenage sons from an earlier straight marriage, said she was “a little bit disappointed.”

“I would have liked to have had the divorce, but either way he ruled, it was going to be appealed,” she said.

Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood’s office had argued that Mississippi can’t grant a divorce in a marriage it doesn’t recognize. Hood’s office said in a motion to intervene on Nov. 15 that Mississippi “has no obligation to give effe ct to California laws that are contrary to Mississippi’s expressly stated public policy.”

Czekala-Chatham’s lawyer, Wesley Hisaw, said Desoto County Chancery Judge Mitchell Lundy said he felt that “his hands were tied” by Mississippi law.

Mississippi lawmakers amended state law in 1997 to say any same-sex marriage “is prohibited and null and void from the beginning. Any marriage between persons of the same gender that is valid in another jurisdiction does not constitute a legal or valid marriage in Mississippi.”

In 2004, 86 percent of Mississippi voters approved an amendment placing a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution.

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Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon traveled to San Francisco to get married in 2008. They bought a house together in Mississippi the following year, but their relationship soured.

They could get a divorce in California, but Czekala-Chatham says she shouldn’t be treated differently than straight couples. And His aw argued that Mississippi wouldn’t recognize the divorce from California, which could leave their marital property in limbo.

In his written arguments for a divorce, Hisaw cited a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and ordered the U.S. government to recognize legal same-sex marriages. That has created a situation where same-sex couples “are married lawfully under the laws of the United States, but not under Mississippi law,” Hisaw contends.

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63 more reader comments:

  1. Logic: Void in Mississippi.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:03am
  2. Leigh Ann Hogan

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:04am
  3. That happened to gay guys in Texas: Christian bigots do not see them as married

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:04am
  4. Why are they always last.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:05am
  5. You can marry your sister but not same sex in backwoods Mississippi!!! Lol

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:05am
  6. I’m honestly surprised. I figured people like this would want nothing more than to end a gay marriage *shrugs* I suppose there truly is no pleasing these people.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:05am
  7. I think that you are right, but the implication in ending it is that others might use it as precedence that gay marriage is therefore recognised. They see it as a small loss for a greater win - although either way, long term gay marriage will come in.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:26am
  8. None whatsoever.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:26am
  9. Ok, now it’s time to file a federal lawsuit in Federal District Court challenging Mississippi’s ban on gay marriage and the ban’s real and destructive impact on real people, in this case, the couple requesting divorce. Hey, hey! ho, ho! Homophobia’s got to go! Hell hath no fury like dykes scorned!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:06am
  10. Fought so hard to marry, only to divorce. Sad, quitters

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:07am
  11. It's not quitting. It's actually fighting harder. Not all marriages can last forever. And everybody should have the right to marry, just like they should have the right to divorce.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:18am
  12. So incest is ok but same sex marriage is not?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:07am
  13. Dumb on so many levels

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:07am
  14. I hope they don’t do it.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:08am
  15. file a law suit!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:08am
  16. Samuel LeCompte! You are correct, it was here in Texas in 2010 that the couple was told they had to return to the state in which they were married to get a divorce..

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:09am
  17. If the state does not recognize the marriage or subsequent divorce of gay couples, they cannot exercise law on that matter. The meaning of posting these issues is to make the fight known and that the federal government, not the state, must act on these bigoted laws of the state.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:09am
  18. Umm Federal Law and SCOTUS case precedent trumps any state law…wtf is wrong with this state and this judge? SMH…but, yes…file in federal court

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:12am
  19. Marriage is in almost all aspects a state issue... why do you think it's taking so long for equality to spread among the states. Barring involvement with the military, taxation, clergy, etc-- there's not much the Feds can do to get involved with a state marriage decision. Granted, that's not to say it's impossible here, as the tax aspect is the easiest way to go.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:38am
  20. Typical gay can’t keep a relationship. Lol

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:12am
  21. Do you have corroboration to show that gays are any more vulnerable to unstable relationships, than the near-half of straight marriages that end in divorce? ...or are you employing just a bit of stereotypical self-loathing of your own? Hmmm.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:40am
  22. aint that the state where the kkk did all those lynching back in the 50s,they need to enter and join us in the 21st century.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:13am
  23. Same thing for Americans who were coming to Canada to get married. They had to return to Canada to get divorced because their marriages weren’t recognised in the USA. You guys will get there, give it time.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:14am
  24. If the marriage truly is not legally recognized in the first place, then of course the divorce cannot be legally recognized. Obviously the more important issue is that marriage equality needs to happen in Mississippi.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:20am
  25. Idky they’re surprised. We live in Ohio, married in Mass. Have to live in Mass for one year before we could divorce.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:22am
  26. Ok the 86 % of people who voted against gay marriage, I have a question for you??? How does to people getting married against the law??? How does it effect you or your marriage??? If straight people can do it then why can’t you see that just because its two people of the same gender can’t have the same rights??? You are judging people you don’t even know… Just because you don’t agree with it gives you no right to tell others what they can and can not do!!! I don’t agree with divorce but does that make me want a law against it??? No it doesn’t

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:26am
  27. “I figured people like this would want nothing more than to end a gay marriage”

    It’s actually pretty consistent, when you think about it:

    By their actions, they don’t find divorce to be a threat to marriage– otherwise, they’d spend all their effort fighting to stop divorce, not fighting to stop equal marriage.

    So since they don’t see divorce to be a threat to straight marriage, they take no solace in divorce as a tool against gay marriage either.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:34am
  28. So why would this be surprising? If the state dont grant same sex marriage they tend to not recognize them either. So why would he grant them a divorce? Seems like its a California case where the marriage took place…js

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:36am
  29. Aaaaaand to the supreme court we go (again) !

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:36am
  30. All the reason Mississippi will be last to ever pass same sex marriage.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:37am
  31. gonna be One of the last states to legalize it i think……

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:37am
  32. This ought to stir up the debate!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:41am
  33. Makes sense. Many states constitutions that don’t have gay marriage say in them same sex marriages are not recognized. So if it’s not recognized why would they grant a divorce?? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with it. But it is their law.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:49am
  34. you can marry you sister just not your lesbian sister

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:49am
  35. Well, they are the dumbest, poorest, and fattest state in the nation. They aren’t really a paragon of an advanced society.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:51am
  36. Why did these women even think they could get divorced in Mississippi anyway? They know that MS doesn’t allow same sex couples to get married (I’m assuming this why they got married in CA in the first place). MS can’t divorce them because it doesn’t recognize that they were ever married… What she needs to be doing is suing Mississippi over it’s constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. Unless this all part of her plan to set up a case for just that…. At any rate, any place that allows the majority to vote on the rights of a minority is un-American. How far we’ve fallen…

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:55am
  37. the south, what would you expect….pathetic

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3:58am
  38. Maybe now they’ll get serious about their marriage and let it work!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 4:13am
  39. I hate to say it, but I agree with the ruling. I think gay marriage should be recognized in all 50 states, the federal government, and in the territories, but the fact is- it’s not a marriage in Mississippi. Therefore, if they grant a divorce, they are recognizing it as such against state law.

    Had I been the judge, I probably would’ve come to the same conclusion. Judges (at least at that level) can’t rule on what they want, they have to rule on what is the law.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 4:19am
  40. Why did they get married on the first place?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 4:24am
  41. Allison Brockford what you mean? did you mean “how”?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 4:29am
  42. No, why? It hasn’t been legal for that long. They are already getting a divorce? I mean, it’s not like the just got hitched for the heck of it. It’s not that easy to do. I was just wondering why they even bothered.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 4:40am
  43. i bet a lot of people got married once it became legal. it was a rush for a lot of people and lots of peopole were doing it. I agree that it was probably not well thought out nor planned and a spontaneous decision. and once the “honeymoon phase” was over, they didn’t want it anymore. Bleh to them.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 4:44am
  44. Yes all marriage should be recognized, but the law is public information so it should come as no surprise that they won’t offer divorce for something they don’t recognize exists in the first place. Under this same logic, their marital property wouldn’t be in limbo, because they wouldn’t have any if the state doesn’t recognize their marriage…

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 4:54am
  45. BS!!! .l.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 5:07am
  46. I honestly do not see what’s surprising here… They don’t recognize same sex marriage how is it shocking that they also don’t recognize same sex divorce as far as the law is concerned there they can’t be divorced because they aren’t married under there laws… The judges hands are tied he must uphold the law regardless of the circumstances… I’m all for same sex marriage but If you know your state hasn’t passed it why even try to get divorced there, it’s like they were looking for a run around disaster.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 5:44am
  47. Umm… Problem solved?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 5:58am
  48. If your marriage isn’t even legally recognised, why even bother with a divorce? If your marriage isn’t recognised legally, then you’ve already accomplished what you set out to do. While I don’t agree with Mississippi’s stance on gay marriage, I fail to see the need for the outcry in this case. What’s the point in fretting over it?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 6:01am
  49. I think we should outlaw divorce for straight people.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 7:00am
  50. It’s time for people to start arguing full faith and credit

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 7:16am
  51. If your home state doesn’t recognize same-gender marriage, then there is no need to file a divorce because your “not married” to begin with, at least in that state. Go to the state you got married, and file there if you want a divorce.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 7:39am
  52. I am a little upset with the gay community about this one. We are fighting and fighting to be allowed to marry our partners and you are trying to get a divorce.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 8:00am
  53. You can marry your sheep in Mississippi…GIVE US A BREAK WITH THE BS

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 8:41am
  54. love your comment, Tpm Jordan.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 8:48am
  55. The ever classy mississippi…..

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 9:32am
  56. I love my state MISSISSIPPI, I obviously don’t agree with the states whole take on same sex marriage. Marriage is a human right that should not be dictated by sexual orientation, but what the judge should have suggested for this couple was a property settlement since that was the couples main concern.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 9:42am
  57. It’s no ones right to deny any one marriage or divorce.. If the breeders can do it so can us gays.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 10:58am
  58. MS has always been behind the times! They need to get with the program, and leave behind the George Wallace mentality.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 11:54am
  59. what a ~~~~~

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 12:21pm
  60. Wow . We fight so hard for the right to marry and then divorce . Really

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 1:21pm
  61. They don’t recognize much of anything, especially the thumb they’ve been sticking up their bum for the last few hundred years.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 1:43pm
  62. Some people r just fucked in the head!!! And give us gay people a bad rap.so over stuipped people

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 2:20pm
  63. I’m over stuipped people too. How dare these two human beings make a mistake and then realize they want to do what they feel is best and divorce! How dare they!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 2:51pm