Same-sex couple’s divorce case before Mississippi Supreme Court


JACKSON, Miss. — The attorney for a woman who wants the state of Mississippi to recognize her same-sex marriage in order to grant a divorce says his client’s case is on a parallel track to the efforts in federal court to overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage.

divorce“There’s no direct connection, but it is, of course, ultimately all part of the same issue,” J. Wesley Hisaw told The Commercial Appeal in a discussion of the two cases.

Hisaw, an attorney in Horn Lake, represents Lauren Czekala-Chatham in appeal now pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court.

In 2013, DeSoto County Chancery Judge Mitchell Lundy Jr. ruled that the Mississippi Constitution and statutes prevented him from granting a divorce to Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon.

The women married in San Francisco in 2008 and bought a house in Mississippi before separating in 2010. They could divorce in California, but Czekala-Chatham says she shouldn’t be treated differently than straight couples. The two have come to terms on division of property since separating, but Czekala-Chatham is pressing ahead with the legal challenge of Mississippi’s stance on same-sex marriage in hopes of setting a precedent for future same-sex couples whose parting might be less amicable.

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In a separate challenge to Mississippi’s same-sex marriage ban, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves heard five hours of arguments in Jackson Wednesday. The arguments are in a lawsuit filed by two lesbian couples and a gay rights group seeking the right to marry.

Roberta Kaplan, an attorney for the plaintiffs, argued that gay and lesbian Mississippians deserve the dignity of equal treatment under the law. She said the lawsuit does not ask churches or other religious institutions to change their marriage practices.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood have asked Reeves to uphold Mississippi’s definition of marriage as being between a man and woman.

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