A Mississippi judge ruled against a
same-sex couple in a landmark divorce case today.
Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham was married in California, and she filed for the divorce from her former wife Dana Melancon in September in DeSoto County in north Mississippi. She says the judge seemed sympathetic, and she plans to appeal Monday's ruling.
Judge Mitchell Lundy based his ruling
on one simple fact: the state of Mississippi does not recognize gay marriage therefore
this couple can't legally get divorced there.
When Judge Mitchell Lundy
dismissed the case Chatham appeared stunned. "Not today, I wasn't expecting
answer today, a few weeks from now...and like he said it should be appealed,"
Judge Mitchell Lundy heard arguments in court from the Attorney General's office that granting the divorce would recognize the marriage and go against the state constitution.
Lauren's attorney Wesley Hisaw argued among other things that by not granting the divorce the state was forcing Dana and Lauren to stay in the marriage.
Laurens ex-wife Dana still thinks the two should just go file for divorce elsewhere. "I want the divorce, I think it would be easier in California to do this but I also understand the reason why she wants it here...and I wish her the best with it."
Chatham vowed to take the case as high as she needed too to get the divorce granted in Mississippi.
"Well, if it can open doors to other things down the road that would be great. There is a lot of discrimination here with the Attorney General showing up because this is a same-sex marriage. A lot needs to be changed in the state and it has to start somewhere."
Before dismissing the case Judge Lundy mentioned his dismay at not being able to grant any relief in the case. He then stated that he could not go against a state law against same-sex marriages that voters brought in and legislators approved.
"Obviously If I can't find
a legal and valid marriage in the state of Mississippi I can't grant a divorce,"
said Judge Lundy.
In 2004, 86 percent of Mississippi voters approved an amendment placing a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution.
Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon got married in San Francisco in 2008 and lived together in Mississippi.
They could get a divorce in California, but Czekala-Chatham says she shouldn't have to.
QUESTION OF THE DAY:
A Mississippi judge denied a lesbian couple a same-sex divorce today on the basis that Mississippi does not recognize same sex marriage.
According to Politico, couples in non-recognition states would have to move back to the state where they were married and establish residency in order to get divorced.
Mississippi's first same-sex divorce case was presented before a DeSoto County Chancery Court judge in Hernando Tuesday.
The first-ever same-sex divorce complaint to be filed in the Magnolia State involves a lesbian couple that were legally married in San Francisco.
MORE: Mississippi divorce case seeks gay marriage recognition
Lauren Czekala-Chatham and Dana Melancon were married in San Francisco in 2008. Two years later the two separated. Czekala-Chatham, who now lives in Mississippi, recently filed for divorce in DeSoto County.
"I want to get divorced in Mississippi and I am going to pursue the divorce in Mississippi," she said.
The case is complicated. Czekala-Chatham's attorney Wesley Hisaw said the constitutionality of the case will be argued before Judge Mitchell Lundy and the attorney general Dec. 2 in DeSoto County Chancery Court.
"To get some kind of determination from them because they have to be involved in any case involving the constitutionality of any statute," Hisaw said.
Attorney Chad Reeves, who represents Melancon, said that he will push for the case to be dismissed on the grounds that Mississippi doesn't recognize same sex marriages, that is if, in fact, Czekala-Chatham doesn't agree to Melancan's terms.
"If we can get it resolved my client is open to having DesSto County Chancery Court grant the divorce," Reeves said. "But that is only if we can resolve all the issues. Outside of that, she wishes to go to California."
Reeves argues that it would be cheaper and quicker for both women to go to California to get divorced.
"Instead of wasting the time and money and the resources fighting whether or not we could be divorced, we go to California and obtain the divorce in a more expedited manner,' Reeves said.
Hisaw said only the divorce could be taken care of in California but not the property issues.
"I mean I want it all done here," Czekala-Chatham said. "I live here, I pay taxes here. I don't want to be treated like a second class citizen. I should be able to have the same rights to walk in and get a divorce."
If the divorce is not granted by the county chancery court and the attorney general finds it unconstitutional to do so, the case would likely be appealed.
"I mean we could always appeal it to the next level," Czekala-Chatham said.