Mississippians are reacting to new rules from the U.S. Department of Justice recognizing same-sex marriages in federal courtrooms, prisons and other parts of the justice system.
The policy memorandum issued by Attorney General Eric Holder says same-sex marriages will be recognized by the justice department regardless of where the couple currently lives.
In practice, that means that married gay couples living in Mississippi - as long as they got hitched in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage - won’t have to testify against each other in federal courts and be able to file jointly for federal bankruptcy, among other rights.
"States that currently have constitutional amendments are not being asked to change their laws," says Fred Sainz with the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT rights group. "It is merely recognizing for federal purposes that that marriage is completely portable irrespective of whether or not that state offers marriage equality or has a constitutional amendment that prohibits it."
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant responded to the DOJ policy rules in a statement, saying, "In Mississippi, voters chose overwhelmingly to amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and we will work to protect that decision."
Jennifer Reilly-Collins with the ACLU of Mississippi applauded the D-O-J’s announcement, noting that there are more than 1,100 places in federal laws where being married makes a difference – from access to family medical leave and health care to social security survivor benefits.
The DOJ rules stem from a U-S Supreme Court decision last year that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.