In a 5-4 vote, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that same-sex divorce is legal and should be recognized throughout the state. A lower court judge refused to grant the same-sex divorce, so Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham appealed her case to the state’s Supreme Court. The five justices who voted in favor of the divorce cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country. The four dissenting justices questioned whether the U.S. Supreme Court had the authority to make such a ruling.
Details of Same-Sex Divorce Case
Ms. Czekala-Chatham married her female partner in California, where such unions were recognized prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision. The couple moved to Mississippi, where their union was not recognized. In 2013, the couple filed for a same-sex divorce. A DeSoto County judge cited the state’s lack of recognition of same-sex marriage, so he denied the couple their same-sex divorce. After the high court’s ruling, she appealed her same-sex divorce case to the state Supreme Court.
Dissenters Argue Legality of Same-Sex Divorce
In light of the high court’s decision, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood told the state courts that he considered Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The dissenting justices in the same-sex divorce case questioned whether the U.S. Supreme Court created policy with their decision on same-sex marriage, rather than interpreting the laws currently in existence. In his dissent on the same-sex divorce case, Justice Jess Dickinson announced his opinion that “state courts are not required to recognize as legitimate legal authority a Supreme Court decision that is no way a constitutional interpretation.”
Legal Standing of Same-Sex Divorce
Justice Dickinson also called the high court’s actions on same-sex marriage, “a legislative act by a judicial body” that violates the specified powers clause of the U.S. Constitution. He stated that this interpretation would exempt state courts who do not agree with a Supreme Court decision from complying with the ruling. Mississippi College of Law professor Matt Steffey, an expert in constitutional law, told local reporters that Justice Dickinson’s opinions on the legitimacy of high court rulings was “considered and rejected by our founding fathers.”
Impact of Same-Sex Divorce
As for Ms. Czekala-Chatham, she told reporters that she was pleased that the court ruled in her favor on her same-sex divorce case. “I’m happy this battle has been won,” she told the Associated Press, “But the war on discrimination is still ongoing.” She also spoke about how the publicity surrounding her same-sex divorce has affected her career and personal life. She said that the legal battle “has damaged my life in ways I can’t recover from.”
Source: USA Today
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