Federal Lawsuit Filed to Challenge Mississippi Ban on Marriage Equality

by Charles Joughin

Roberta Kaplan, who successfully argued Windsor challenge against DOMA at Supreme Court, will lead fight against Mississippi’s discriminatory marriage ban in federal court

WASHINGTON – Today a case was filed in federal district court in Mississippi challenging the state’s discriminatory constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying.  Famed attorney Roberta Kaplan, who successfully argued United States v. Windsor against the federal Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court of the United States last year, will represent two plaintiff couples on behalf of Campaign for Southern Equality.  This is the first marriage equality federal lawsuit filed in Mississippi.  A case challenging the state marriage ban filed in state court – Czekala-Chatham v. Melancon– is on appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court after a judge denied a same-sex couple’s divorce petition, citing the state’s ban on recognition of marriages between same-sex couples. 

“LGBT Mississippians are just as deserving of the right to marry as anyone else across the country,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “As we’ve seen from dozens of court rulings over the last year, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t allow for states to discriminate against committed and loving gay and lesbian couples through these marriage bans.  Robbie Kaplan, the Campaign for Southern Equality and the wonderful plaintiffs in this case will no doubt bring an end to marriage inequality in the Magnolia State.” 

Mississippi falls within the jurisdiction of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has two marriage equality cases pending before it.  In DeLeon v. Perry, a federal district court judge granted a motion for preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing its ban on marriage equality. That injunction was appealed, and will be argued before the Fifth Circuit.  In Robicheaux v. Caldwell a federal district court judge upheld Louisiana’s ban on marriage equality on September 3, 2014.  This was the first time a federal court ruled in favor of a marriage ban since the Supreme Court of the United States struck down DOMA the previous year.  That ruling has been appealed to the Fifth Circuit. 

In United States v. Windsor, Roberta Kaplan argued on behalf of Edith Windsor against DOMA, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples.  The Supreme Court’s ruling in Windsor has been cited in every court ruling striking down state bans on marriage equality.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.


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