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Mississippi files notice of appeal in same-sex marriage case, asks to extend stay

Mississippi files notice of appeal in same-sex marriage case, asks to extend stay
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s attorney general has taken first steps to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Gov. Phil Bryant (R-Miss.)
Gov. Phil Bryant (R-Miss.)

A formal notice of appeal was filed late Wednesday in federal court in Jackson and with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans by Attorney General Jim Hood and Gov. Phil Bryant. The state signaled that it was preparing to present detailed arguments later to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves threw out the state’s ban on same-sex marriage but put his order on hold for two weeks so the state could appeal.

Mississippi has a 1997 law that bans same-sex marriage and a 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Both were thrown out by Reeves. Two lesbian couples and a gay-rights group, Campaign for Southern Equality, sued on Oct. 20 to overturn the ban.

 Along with the notice of appeal, Hood has told the 5th Circuit that Reeves’ hold on his order will expire Dec. 9. Hood wants the hold extended indefinitely by the 5th Circuit until it rules on Mississippi’s appeal.

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If the 5th Circuit does nothing, Hood said, “at the opening of business on Wednesday, Dec. 10, Mississippi circuit clerks will be forced to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in derogation of Mississippi’s strong public policy favoring traditional marriages … ” as found on Mississippi books.

The Campaign for Southern Equality has not filed a response to Hood’s motion. Calls to the organization’s Ashville, North Carolina, office were answered by a recording.

Hood said in court documents that his office had talked with the plaintiffs’ attorneys and they intend to oppose the state’s motion.

Attorney General Jim Hood (D-Miss.)
Attorney General Jim Hood (D-Miss.) AP

The only harm that would result to the Campaign and same-sex couples from a stay would be a relatively short continued delay in the exercise of a newly-minted right to same-sex marriage.

“Putting Mississippi on different legal footing than Louisiana and Texas in the context of same-sex marriage would disserve the public interest, especially with this court poised and prepared to resolve this issue. Same-sex marriages in those states are not currently permitted … pending the outcome of the appeals,” Hood said.

The 5th Circuit, based in New Orleans, is scheduled to hear arguments in January from a ruling that overturned Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage but has been put on hold.

Gay rights advocates are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before the 5th Circuit hears it; the Louisiana ban on same-sex marriage was upheld by a federal district judge.

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