The Mississippi Supreme Court is deliberating whether it can legally grant a divorce to a same-sex couple living in North Mississippi.
At the heart of the case is whether granting a divorce to a same-sex couple living in Mississippi would force the state to recognize the marriage between Lauren Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon as legal. The couple were married in California in 2008, Mississippi has had a ban on same-sex marriage since 2004. Because the couple are residents of the Magnolia State, they cannot legally get a divorce elsewhere. Hattiesburg attorney Carey Varnado represented the couple during oral arguments before the high court in Jackson yesterday. He says the inability of the couple to get a divorce in Mississippi is a violation of due process under the U.S. Constitution.
"California issued a marriage license. My client is now married. She does not want to be married, and the courts of this state are has now said 'You cannot get a divorce.' She is in essence trapped in the status of married. That's just not right. She has been deprived of due process.
Assistant Attorney General Justin Matheny argued that the state can't grant the divorce because the state does not believe the couple’s 2008 marriage was legally binding in Mississippi.
"Same-sex couples don't have the right to get married under Mississippi law in Mississippi, but it also goes further and it prohibits recognition," Matheny says. "The problem that that presented for the chancellor below that in order to grant the divorce you have to recognize that there was a marriage in the first place."
Late last year, a federal judge ruled Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, however the ban remains in effect until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a similar case latter this year. The Mississippi Supreme Court may wait on that ruling before deciding to grant the couple a divorce.