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Despite Supreme Court ruling, same-sex marriage on hold

Despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Friday, same-sex marriage is on hold in Warren County and in Mississippi’s 81 other counties following a directive from the State Attorney General’s Office.

Warren County Circuit Clerk Jan Daigre said no one attempted to obtain a same-sex marriage license application Friday but licenses would be available once the state gives the go-ahead.

“The circuit clerk’s office will follow the law,” Daigre said.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said Friday that same-sex marriages couldn’t take place in the state until a federal appeals court in New Orleans lifts a hold on a gay marriage court case from Mississippi. He said he doesn’t know how long that could take.

But Hood’s order to the state’s circuit clerk’s says clerks “will be required to issue same-sex marriage license” when the Fifth Circuit Court lifts its hold, Daigre said.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Friday to extend same-sex marriage to all 50 states.

The ruling sparked angry calls to the Warren County clerk’s office, Daigre said.

“I kept telling [the callers] the circuit clerk will follow the law, but it’s not effective in Mississippi at this time,” Daigre said.

Several same-sex marriage licenses were issued in Forrest County before Hood issued his stance.

American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer-Riley Collins said Hood’s directive to the state’s circuit clerks was unnecessary and that the Supreme Court ruling should supersede the appellate court’s stay.

“The Supreme Court has spoken and everyone should be complying with the Constitution. The right question isn’t about timing around lifting the stay on the injunction,” Collins said in a statement. “The question is whether states and their officers have to comply with the Constitution now. The answer is yes. States and government officials cannot drag their heels when it comes to their constitutional obligations.”

The stay on gay-marriage before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals came as result of lawsuit filed by two lesbian couples and a gay-rights group over the state’s 1997 law and a 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment banning gam marriage.

A federal judge overturned the ban but put marriages on hold while the state appealed.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Nov. 25 overturned the state’s definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman, but same-sex couples were temporarily banned from marrying in Mississippi while the state asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Reeves’ ruling. The appeals court heard arguments but did not rule.

Reeves agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that same-sex couples deserve equal protection under the law, as defined by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He also wrote that legalizing same-sex marriage would encourage development of stable families.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the Supreme Court’s Friday ruling takes away states’ right to regulate marriage.

“Today, a federal court has usurped that right to self-governance and has mandated that states must comply with federal marriage standards — standards that are out of step with the wishes of many in the United States and that are certainly out of step with the majority of Mississippians,” Bryant said.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.