The legal case over Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage will be heard before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans this morning.
MPB’s Evelina Burnett spoke with one of the couples at the center of the lawsuit.
Becky Bickett and Andrea Sanders began dating about 10 years ago. They've lived together since both lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina. Last year, they and another couple filed a lawsuit challenging the state's ban on same-sex unions. Bickett says marriage is about being able to legally protect the ones you love – with health insurance, for example, or in custody or estate matters.
"You can be with someone for years," Bickett says. "Many couples we know have been together 10, 20, 30, 40 - some have been together for over 50 years, have been waiting to get married and legally protect the person they've been with.
"That's what the marriage is about, that's what the legal documents are about, is protections, and benefits, and insurances, things that society requires for families," she adds. "You can love and protect somebody with your heart and your actions for your entire life, but if you don't have those legal protections, then your family is not safe."
In 2013, the couple, who now live in Pass Christian, adopted twin boys, adding another layer to the legal urgency to get the state recognition. Sanders says Bickett is the boys’ only legal adoptive parent.
"Both of us can't adopt the children in this state," she says. "So from a legal standpoint, I'm a stranger. We've been with the boys since day one, but I am legally a stranger."
The Campaign for Southern Equality filed the lawsuit challenging Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage last year on behalf of Bickett and Sanders and another couple, Jocelyn Pritchett and Carla Webb.
A federal judge overturned Mississippi's ban on same-sex marraiges last month. The state appealed, arguing that Mississippians had overwhelmingly voted against same-sex unions in 2004.
The Fifth Circuit will hear oral arguments in the Mississippi case this morning, at the same time as similar cases from Louisiana and Texas.