Mississippi is again in the national news. I blogged recently about a same-sex divorce case pending in Desoto County, Mississippi. The Court has now rendered a verdict.
An apparent reluctant Judge, bound to follow the law as written, denied a divorce to a same-sex couple. The couple, married in California, separated in Mississippi after residing here for several years. Upon separation one party moved to Florida with the other remaining here. The Mississippian initially sought a contested divorce, but it appeared that the parties had come to a settlement for a no-fault (irreconcilable differences) divorce. However, their agreement to divorce was not enough.
Mississippi law, as it currently stands, prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriages in the State. Therefor, if you do not have a marriage, you cannot get a divorce. That is the basic logic that was applied in this instance.
Interestingly, State Attorney General Jim Hood intervened on behalf of the State. The AG’s office argued that the Mississippi Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman and that MS has a specific statute that disallows recognizing another state’s same-sex marriage. These arguments carried the day, at least for now.
The Mississippian, denied a divorce, plans to appeal the decision of the Chancellor and will challenge the constitutionality of Mississippi’s laws. The ultimate conclusion will be a balancing of the State’s compelling interest in “protecting” marriage and limitations on who may and may not marry versus an individual’s right to privacy, liberty, and the right to marry.
Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney and domestic relations adj. professor at MC Law; Keeping you abreast of the ever-changing world of family law in which we live in.