Same-Sex Marriage: Some in Mississippi Applaud, Some Condemn Ruling

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, a group that filed a 2014 federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage.

"LGBT families in Mississippi have always been equal in the eyes of God but now, finally, they are also equal under the law, with a safety net of legal protections surrounding them," she said after Friday's Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriage nationwide.

Tim Wildmon, president of the Tupelo-based American Family Association condemned the Supreme Court decision, saying it "rejects not only thousands of years or time-honored marriage but also the rule of law in the United States."

"Sadly, our nation's highest court, which should be a symbol of justice, has chosen instead to be a tool of tyranny, elevating judicial will above the will of the people," Wildmon said. "There is no doubt that this morning's ruling will imperil religious liberty in America, as individuals of faith who uphold time-honored marriage and choose not to advocate for same-sex unions will now be viewed as extremists."

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, advised circuit clerks to delay issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifts a hold that was put on a lower court's ruling in lawsuit that sought to legalize gay marriage in Mississippi.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in November overturned Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage but put his own ruling on hold while the state appealed. The 5th Circuit heard Mississippi's appeal but did not rule on the case before Friday's Supreme Court decision.

Ron Rychlak, a professor at the University of Mississippi law school, agreed with Hood that the hold, or stay, must be removed from Reeves' order.

"I suppose the 5th Circuit might choose not to lift the stay," Rychlak said. But he added, "I have a hard time foreseeing that as a realistic alternative."

Matt Steffey, a professor at the Mississippi College law school, said the Supreme Court decision should be final in a couple of weeks.

"That means any state law making invalid same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and void," Steffey said. "It is all the local authority anyone needs" to issue marriage licenses.

State Democratic Party spokeswoman Ouida Meruvia said the Supreme Court upheld the fundamental rights that America is supposed to offer all citizens.

"Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation seems to be an inherent concept to a nation founded by declaring, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,'" Meruvia said. "However, today we're reminded that equality has not been self-evident, but instead a struggle that generations of Mississippians have had to fight. And, today, these Mississippians have seen a victory. America has seen a victory. Freedom, equality, and love have seen a victory."

Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker said: "I have always believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman, a belief shared by many Americans. There are people who hold strong views on both sides of this issue, and reasonable people can respectfully disagree. I will continue to work to protect the First Amendment rights of those who, based on their religious convictions, oppose same-sex marriage."

Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, said she hopes state officials will move swiftly to implement the Constitution's command.

"This ruling will bring joy to families, and final nationwide victory to the decades-long freedom to marry movement," Riley-Collins said. "This is a momentous win for freedom, equality, inclusion and above all, love. We can celebrate that ours is a country that keeps its promise of the pursuit of happiness, liberty and justice for all."

Republican U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo said: "Under the United States Constitution, marriage laws have always been a matter left for the states, and Mississippians have overwhelming opposed same-sex marriage time and again. The Supreme Court's ruling not only undermines the will of the people of Mississippi and the Constitution, but tears at the very fabric of our democracy by setting an alarming precedent for the future of states' rights."

Rob Hill, state director of the gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign Mississippi, said the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalizes gay marriage nationwide will be celebrated in rallies to be scheduled in Jackson, Hattiesburg and Tupelo.

"This historic ruling makes it perfectly clear that there is no legal or moral justification for standing in the path of marriage equality," Hill said. "We call on Gov. Bryant to immediately make the institution of marriage accessible to same-sex couples in Mississippi and ensure that the ruling is fully implemented at every level."


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