Mississippi Supreme Court hears arguments over same-sex divorce

Mississippi Supreme Court

Mississippi Supreme Court

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi, which does not allow same-sex marriages, should find a way to grant a divorce to a DeSoto County woman who married another woman in California in 2008, lawyer Carey Varnado told the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Mississippi Supreme Court

Mississippi Supreme Court

The attorney general’s office, though, told the court that the state can’t grant a divorce to Lauren Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon because their marriage is void in Mississippi.

There may be a way out for the nine justices on Mississippi’s top court: They could find a way to grant a divorce or legally dissolve the marriage without overturning the state constitutional amendment and law that limit marriage to a union between only one man and one woman. They could also wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule.

Presiding Justice Jess Dickinson repeatedly asked Wednesday why, if Mississippi opposes same-sex marriage, would the state want to keep such a union from ending?

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“Why aren’t we encouraging same-sex persons to come into Mississippi and get a divorce?” Dickinson asked Assistant Attorney General Justin Matheny.

Matheny answered that to do so would require the state to recognize the marriage, which would be illegal.

“You can’t get past that,” Associate Justice David Chandler said. “There’s no way to grant a divorce or an annulment in Mississippi.”

Associate Justice Randy Pierce repeatedly noted that the state will grant divorces to other people who aren’t allowed to marry in Mississippi but married elsewhere, such as first cousins.

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