November 11, 2014 at 11:41 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Miss. officials defend state’s same-sex marriage ban
Mississippi, gay news, Washington Blade

Mississippi officials on Monday defended their state’s same-sex marriage ban in a brief filed in a case challenging it that is before a federal court. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mississippi officials on Monday defended their state’s same-sex marriage ban in a brief they filed with a federal court hearing a lawsuit against it.

Gov. Phil Bryant and Attorney General Jim Hood repeatedly stressed in their 15-page brief filed by Justin Matheny that the state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman and the statutory ban on gay marriages “speak for themselves.” The officials also denied the plaintiffs’ claims the marriage amendment discriminates against them and same-sex couples in the Magnolia State.

“The state defendants admit only that the constitutional provisions and statutes referenced in paragraph 4 of the complaint speak for themselves,” wrote Matheny. “Any and all remaining allegations contained in paragraph 4 of the complaint are denied. The state defendants deny that Plaintiffs are entitled to any relief whatsoever from the court.”

Matheny filed the brief with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi two days before a judge is scheduled to hear the case the Campaign for Southern Equality filed last month on behalf of two lesbian couples.

Roberta Kaplan, the lead counsel in the case who successfully argued against the Defense of Marriage Act before the U.S. Supreme Court, on Monday dismissed Bryant and Hood’s arguments in a brief she filed with the federal bench.

“In seeking to defend the constitutionality of the Mississippi laws that exclude gay couples from civil marriage, defendants do not offer a single argument that has not already been rejected — repeatedly — by federal courts across the country,” she wrote. “This reply focuses mainly on the arguments not previously addressed, none of which provide any persuasive justification for the ongoing discrimination against the gay citizens of Mississippi at issue here.”

Kaplan told the Washington Blade on Tuesday her brief “speaks for itself.”

Mississippi voters in 2004 overwhelmingly approved their state’s marriage amendment.

Gays and lesbians are currently able to legally marry in 32 states and D.C.

More than three dozen federal and local judges have ruled in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of DOMA in June 2013.

Lawyers representing the gay couples who are seeking marriage rights in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee plan to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to consider their respective cases after a three-judge panel with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati last week ruled against them.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in September ruled Louisiana’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage between a man and a woman is constitutional. U.S. District Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez last month upheld Puerto Rico’s gay nuptials prohibition.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Monday placed a temporary hold on same-sex marriage in Kansas, pending the outcome of a decision from the full court on whether to extend the stay on nuptials for gays and lesbians in the state.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

1 Comment
  • People voted in 2004? That was a decade ago and most people have learned and moved on which is why 32 states support marriage equality. Stop being ignorant and step up to the plate to give all of your Mississippi citizens equal rights just like you charge them equal taxes.

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