HATTIESBURG, Miss.–Same-sex couple plan to record their out-of-state marriages in eight counties in Mississippi Wednesday, said a news release from the Campaign for Southern Equality. The group said it’s about getting equal rights and equal protection.
It’s being called a statewide day of action for marriage equality, and will involve local couples recording their licenses at chancery clerk offices in Amite, Desoto, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Lafayette, Lamar and Pearl River counties.
“Couples are recording their marriage licenses to create a public record of their love and commitment. LGBT people in Mississippi and other Southern states simply cannot keep waiting for equality. There is an urgent need for legal protections for families and individuals in Mississippi, and so we are calling for laws to change as quickly as possible to ensure that, no matter what state you live in, you are treated as a full and equal citizen,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.
Charlene and Dee Smith-Smathers have been together since 1986 and legally wed in Massachusetts in 2013. They believe taking the step to record their marriage license in Mississippi builds on a lifetime of taking public actions in the face of injustice, including their involvement in the women’s movement and the early days of the AIDS crisis.
“We feel it is our duty to contribute however we can,” said Charlene. Dee and Charlene hope that recording their marriage license in Hinds County will bring awareness to the fact that married same-sex couples live in Mississippi, but who they say are not yet treated equally under state law.
The couple went to Massachusetts to get married. Their marriage is recognized by the federal government, but not yet by Mississippi.
The state has a Constitutional amendment that recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman. That means voters chose not to recognize gay marriage in the state.
Over the past two years, the Campaign for Southern Equality has organized for LGBT rights across Mississippi, working with local organizers and grassroots groups to lead WE DO Campaign actions, according to a news release from the Campaign. During this time, 21 same-sex couples have applied for – and been denied – marriage licenses in counties across the state and legally-married same-sex couples have recorded their marriage licenses in both Rankin and Lamar Counties. The Campaign for Southern Equality has also offered an ongoing series of free legal clinics across the state to help LGBT individuals and families understand and protect their rights.
According to 2012 Census data 3,488 same-sex households reside in Mississippi and 26 percent of same-sex couples in Mississippi are raising children, the highest percentage of any state in the nation according to the Williams Institute. The Campaign asserts that a lack of legal protections for these families results in harm and suffering for LGBT people across the state.