Court schedules hearing in appeal of Mississippi same-sex marriage ruling


JACKSON, Miss. — Three federal appeals court judges will hear arguments next month about Mississippi‘s ban on same-sex marriage.

mississippiThe 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday set the Mississippi arguments for Jan. 9 in New Orleans. That’s the same day and place that the same panel of judges will hear arguments over similar cases from the circuit’s other two states, Louisiana and Texas.

Two lesbian couples and a gay-rights group, Campaign for Southern Equality, sued Mississippi this fall over the state’s 1997 law and 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment that ban gay marriage.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Nov. 25 overturned the state’s definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman, but same-sex couples are temporarily banned from marrying in Mississippi while the state appeals Reeves’ ruling.

Reeves agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that same-sex couples deserve equal protection under the law, as defined by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He also wrote that legalizing same-sex marriage would encourage development of stable families.

“There is no reason to believe that opposite-sex couples will not marry because a same-sex couple can marry,” Reeves wrote. “White couples did not call off their marriages when the Supreme Court made interracial marriages lawful. Free-world couples did not cancel their weddings when the Supreme Court permitted incarcerated persons to marry. There is no harm to anyone else.”

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State attorneys argued that Mississippi has the right to set its own laws that define who can marry.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said this week that he “absolutely” supports the same-sex marriage ban and thinks it’s wrong for one federal judge to toss out an amendment that was approved by a wide margin of voters.

A federal district judge overturned the Texas ban on gay marriage but put the ruling on hold during the appeals process. A different federal district judge upheld the Louisiana ban on same-sex marriage, and gay and lesbian couples who sued the state appealed that ruling.

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