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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 28 - Volume 42 Issue 48
Mississippi Supreme Court will hear Lesbian divorce case
Section One
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Mississippi Supreme Court will hear Lesbian divorce case

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Mississippi's Supreme Court set January 21 as the date it will hear arguments in a Lesbian divorce case, but the state Attorney General's office says Mississippi cannot grant the women a divorce because it does not recognize their marriage in the first place.

Lauren Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon were married in San Francisco in 2008, subsequently bought a home in Mississippi, but then separated in 2010.

They have agreed on an amicable divorce and division of their joint property, and they want Mississippi to recognize their divorce. In 2013, DeSoto County Chancery Judge Mitchell Lundy, Jr. ruled that the Mississippi Constitution and statutes prevented him from granting a divorce since in the eyes of the state the women are not legally married.

The couple could get a California divorce, but they told the Biloxi Sun Herald they should not be treated differently from straight couples and they want to set a precedent to help same-sex couples whose parting may be less amicable.

Czekala-Chatham's attorney has argued Mississippi's law shouldn't be allowed to infringe on her rights.

'Lauren does not seek to be married - she seeks a divorce,' her attorney argued in court papers.

'Lauren does not complain of Mississippi's refusal to recognize her marriage to Dana on a going-forward basis. Her complaint is that Mississippi law relegates her to a declaration of voidness, when a party to an opposite-sex marriage in otherwise similar circumstances would be entitled to a divorce.'

Mississippi's Attorney General said the state is not required to recognize a California same-sex marriage or to grant Czekala-Chatham a divorce.

'All same sex Mississippi couples lack a right to have their marriage recognized by the state regardless of whether newly arrived here, having lived here all their life or anywhere in between,' Assistant Attorney General Harold E. Pizzetta III said in briefs.

'Valid federal law grants states the right to choose whether to recognize marriages from other jurisdictions. States are not bound to import other states' laws or policy choices. They are, and forever have been, free to choose their own public policy, as Mississippi rightfully has done here.'

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves is expected to rule soon in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage. Plaintiffs in the case are two Lesbian couples seeking the right to marry and the Campaign for Southern Equality.

If Reeves overturns Mississippi law, the state would have to recognize California marriages for all purposes, including divorce.

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