Category Archives: Opinion

Mississippi in the Spotlight; HB1523, Standing, and You.

HB1523 is the little engine that could. A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the Plaintiffs in the underlying matter did not have standing to pursue their case. The Court basically said those complaining had not been harmed.

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A brief reminder, HB1523 was aimed to prevent “government from interfering with people of faith who are exercising their religious beliefs …in matters of marriage.” Phil Bryant. The Governor said it would not allow the discrimination of anyone.

The debate essentially centers around two “competing” interests. Those in favor of the law – contend a small business owner, hardworking, toiling and of strong Christian conviction should not lose their business and livelihood due to getting sued for not baking a cake for a gay wedding. Those opposed to the law – state that this law affords no protections to a class in need of protection.

Interestingly, prior to this law, during its litigation and even to date, there has not been a reported instance of a small business in the State of Mississippi being sued or facing any consequences for refusing service to same-sex persons prior to this law. The Oregon case where a baker had a money judgment entered against him was due to the admitted violation of an Oregon State law and aggravating factors, including that  the baker published the Complaintant’s name, home address and personal phone number on FaceBook. The money damages were for violating Oregon State law and the emotional distress that accompanied the intended private complaint being publicly posted.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government from making a law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This provision applies to state and local governments through the Fourteenth Amendment.

The problem I see is that this law demands the respecting of an establishment of religion. It specifically allows state employees to discriminate against other citizens based upon a “sincerely held religious belief” or “moral conviction.” This means that the State employee whose job is to issue marriage licenses can refuse because they do not approve of you and/or your soon-to-be spouse.

The intent was to prevent same-sex marriage, but it could also prevent persons who were previously divorced from being married, persons pregnant out-of-wedlock who seek to be married, those that have had a child out of wedlock, and those having sex out of wedlock from getting married. These facts, by the way, are not an interpretation. The law provides for protection of these beliefs.

However, the plaintiffs complaining could not show that they had actually been harmed or discriminated against because of the law. Due to this, the 5th Circuit determined that they did not have the right to sue the State as they could show no harm. Case dismissed.

So, what’s next? This ruling will be appealed to the full panel before the 5th Circuit and in the meantime additional suits will be filed with aggrieved plaintiffs, I predict. However, is a law really a law if it doesn’t matter? Maybe all who seek will get their marriage licenses and all who desire a cake will get their cake and eat it too. Maybe Mississippi is better than our politicians deserve.

Matthew Thompson is a Divorce Attorney encouraging you to believe in your beliefs, but follow the law.

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Advice to Parents; Grow up

If you are the parent to a child then act like it.

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We have seen the reports and stories of parents going off the deep end. Using illegal drugs, abusing substances, pursuing bad-idea relationships and ultimately putting their own selfish desires above the needs of their children.  It’s time to stop.

There are only a handful of people that you, as a parent, are ultimately responsible for; yourself and the people you brought into this world, your children.

Don’t shirk your duties. Don’t neglect your children. Don’t be so consumed with your own desires that you lose sight of what is important. Don’t hate another person so much it clouds your judgment when it comes to your children.

Matthew Thompson is a Child Custody attorney and encourages parents to grow up and act like a parent.

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Clarion-Ledger: Protecting families, or prolonging misery?

Protecting families, or prolonging misery?

Matthew Thompson is a Mississippi family law attorney and professor, and having difficult, drawn-out and costly divorces would be good for his pocketbook.

But Thompson supports reform and changes to divorce laws, “even though it’s against my own self interests.”

“The current laws make it expensive, and in some instances, impossible to get a divorce,” said Thompson, whose firm focuses on family law statewide and who is a professor teaching domestic relations at Mississippi College’s law school.

Thompson said the Legislature’s recent divorce law reform, removing a corroboration requirement for abused spouses, is a needed change.

“Our law has required cruelty claims be corroborated with evidence beyond that of the victim’s testimony,” Thompson said. “… Even if the court believed you, you had to have a neighbor, family member, police report or picture, or you didn’t have corroboration … Now, if the court finds the victim truthful and credible, the court can accept that. If you take a step back and think, that makes sense. Our judges have always been the lie detector, always the barometer of whether someone was credible.

“There is some form of abuse in a vast number of divorce cases,” Thompson said. “Not every one, but a lot of them. When you drill down and include physical, mental, emotional, verbal abuse — It’s a significant number of cases. We as human beings treat the people we are supposed to love the most the worst.”

Thompson said he supports Mississippi creating a “no-fault” ground for divorce. South Dakota is the only other state without such a ground. He said opposition to this change, from those saying it will weaken the sanctity of marriage and increase divorces, is misguided. In practice, Mississippi’s lack of a no-fault ground allows one spouse to hold up a divorce, sometimes for years.

“The idea behind making it difficult to get a divorce is that Mississippi is promoting marriage,” Thompson said. “But when you go 10 years and it costs tens of thousands of dollars — those aren’t intact families trying to get back together.

“Our law promotes divorce blackmail,” Thompson said. “… You have to pay what I say, or agree to what I want, or I won’t agree to a divorce … You have a fundamental, constitutional right to marriage, according to (a U.S. Supreme Court ruling). Shouldn’t you have a fundamental right to a divorce? I guess the counter to that is that you don’t have to get married.”

Thompson said some of the moral and religious arguments focused on divorce policies should be focused on the front-end, marriage policies.

“Our state has made it phenomenally easy to get into a marriage,” Thompson said. “There used to be a three-day wait, used to be a blood test requirement. But now you just go to the circuit clerk and pay $25.

“Studies show having mom and dad happily married and living together is what’s best for children and families,” Thompson said. “Having mom and dad get along and living separately would be second best. Mom and dad living together and fighting and being miserable, whether it’s violent or just cold war, that’s not the best. If this is really about protecting families, there are ways to do that, but still have an appropriate and reasonable means to get out of a marriage. It shouldn’t take a beating or physical violence to get there.”

Contact Geoff Pender at 601-961-7266 or gpender@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter.