“It will be huge,” Roberta Kaplan told the Blade. “It will be importantly symbolically for the country that this could happen in a state like Mississippi.”
Kaplan — who successfully argued against the Defense of Marriage Act before the U.S. Supreme Court last year — spoke with the Blade a day after U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves, who President Obama appointed to the federal bench, heard oral arguments in the lawsuit in a packed courtroom in Jackson, Miss.
The Campaign for Southern Equality, a North Carolina-based advocacy group, filed the case last month on behalf of two lesbian couples seeking marriage rights in the Magnolia State.
Mississippi law bans same-sex marriage, but voters in 2004 overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. It also banned the state from recognizing gay marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.
Justin Matheny on Monday defended the marriage amendment and statutory ban on gay nuptials in a brief he filed with the court on behalf of Gov. Phil Bryant and Attorney General Jim Hood who are among the defendants in the case.
“The state defendants admit only that the constitutional provisions and statutes…speak for themselves,” wrote Matheny.
The Clarion-Ledger on Wednesday reported that Matheny appeared to struggle during the hearing that lasted six hours.
Gays and lesbians are currently able to legally marry in 32 states and D.C.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday said same-sex couples can begin to marry in Kansas.
More than three dozen judges have ruled in support of marriage rights for gays and lesbians since the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 struck down a portion of DOMA in its landmark Windsor decision.
Lawyers representing gay couples who are seeking marriage rights in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee plan to petition the justices to consider their respective cases after a three-judge panel with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month ruled against them. Federal judges in Louisiana and Puerto Rico have also upheld same-sex marriage bans in the respective jurisdictions.
Reeves at the end of the hearing on Wednesday said he would issue his ruling in the Mississippi case “as soon as possible.”