The Associate Press reports that a Mississippi judge has refused to grant a divorce to a lesbian couple who was married in California. The judge ruled that the marriage, which is not recognized as a valid union under Mississippi state law, cannot be terminated.
The divorce was filed by Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham in DeSoto County in September of this year, and although the judge, Desoto County Chancery Judge Mitchell Lundy, seemed “sympathetic” to the plight of the woman, stating that his “hands were tied” under the state’s divorce law, he was required to follow the letter of the law.
Now Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham plans to file an appeal and challenge the Mississippi judge’s ruling. Czekala-Chatham, a mother of two, reports that she was disappointed with the judge’s ruling, although it was not unexpected.
What does the state of Mississippi say?
According to Democrat Attorney General, Mississippi cannot issue a divorce if it does not recognize the marriage. According to a statement issued by the office of the Attorney General, Mississippi “has no obligation to give effect to California laws that are contrary to Mississippi’s expressly stated public policy.”
The state of Mississippi has specifically prohibited same-sex marriage in a state law issued in 1997. Under the law, same sex marriages are considered “null and void.” The law also states that marriages which are entered into in other areas or the country or in other states will not be considered valid in the state of Mississippi.
The citizens of Mississippi remain united behind the law. In fact, in 2004, “86 percent of Mississippi voters approved an amendment placing a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution.”
Who is the couple?
The couple is Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon and they are residents of the state of Mississippi. They decided to travel to California in 2008 to get married, but after they returned to their home state, their relationship failed, leading to divorce.
Their situation mirrors other couples who face the same issue in states such as Texas and Kentucky, which also have ban on same sex marriages. Currently the Texas Supreme Court is set to rule on a case they heard on November 5th about whether the state can grant divorces to gay couples married in other states. The general argument in each state is: “There’s no marriage here. So there can be no divorce.”
Other states have disagreed, however. For instance, in 2011, in the state of Wyoming, the Wyoming Supreme court ruled that a married same sex couple from Canada could get a divorce in the state, even though at the time Wyoming did not recognize the legality of the marriage.
With the inconsistency of different state’s rulings it is likely that we will eventually see this issue make its way to the United States Supreme Court. Until then, same sex couples may be forced to return to the state where the union was made, establish residency, and then file for a divorce.
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