Mississippi divorce case seeks gay marriage recognition - Mid-South News, Weather, Traffic and Sports | FOX13

Mississippi divorce case seeks gay marriage recognition

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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HERNANDO, Miss. (FOX13) -

Could a Mid-South courthouse become the arena for a constitutional showdown over marriage equality?

A same-sex couple, seeking a divorce, hopes a North Mississippi judge will recognize their union.

The first same-sex divorce complaint filed in Mississippi involves a lesbian couple that was legally married in California.

The case is being called a potential landmark and precedent-setting case.

Chatham Complaint of Divorce

The obvious question is what is the court going to do? The big legal question according to the attorney handling the case is getting the court to recognize a same sex marriage. The court would have to do that before granting a divorce.

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham said, "I'm not asking for the state to allow same sex unions, I am asking them to grant me a divorce to prevent any legal ramifications down the line."

Wesley Hisaw is the Horn Lake attorney representing Czekala-Chatham.  She is a Southaven, Mississippi woman, and the first person in Mississippi to file for divorce from a same sex marriage. "She ran into many of the same issues that most people do in divorce, it just happens that she entered into a marriage in California that Mississippi doesn't recognize," says Hisaw.

The divorce heads to court on Tuesday in Desoto County Chancery Court. Lauren has filed for divorce from Dana Ann Melancon, her wife of four years, from Osceola, Arkansas. The two were married in California in 2008 and have been separated for several years.

"I don't know if either side is going to challenge. Obviously, Lauren is not going to challenge the marriage that was validly entered into; it's just a matter of if Mississippi is going to recognize it or not is the real issue at this point. And then it's a matter of dividing the property up and deciding if alimony may or may not be appropriate," according to Hisaw.

Lauren said, "Does the state have to recognize it in this case? They will have to eventually. I mean, we are going off to other states like California and you know, the states that recognize it do allow us to get married, and we are coming back home, and we can't get divorced, like I have to gain residency in California to get divorced. I can't do that. I have a job here and my family is here. The state doesn't recognize it; will have to recognize it so we can get divorced."

If the court does not recognize the marriage, and grant a divorce, Hisaw says there are other avenues. "We still have a lot of cases that say she may be entitled to some form of equitable distribution of everything they got during their marriage, even if Mississippi doesn't recognize the marriage. If the court decides not to recognize it while the case is pending, the court dismisses it, there will be an interlocutory appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, just to see what the Supreme Court is going to do with it," says Hisaw.

Lauren says she has filed for divorce also to protect personal assets for the children she had from a previous marriage. "I'm doing this also to protect the future for my sons, you know. I mean in this state it hasn't been challenged. If I die, then she could probably challenge the will, because we do have a piece of paper between us in a state that doesn't recognize that we are married."

FOX13 tried to contact Dana Melancon about the divorce complaint; she was unavailable for comment.

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