UPDATE 1/7/15: On Friday, January 9, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear an appeal in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, alongside other marriage cases from Texas and Louisiana. Here’s what you need to know as the appeals move forward.
Joce Pritchett and her wife Carla Webb are plaintiffs in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant, a federal lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage. Joce and Carla were married in Maine last year and live in Hinds County, Mississippi with their two children. A hearing on their motion for preliminary injunction will take place in federal court on Wednesday, November 12 before Judge Carlton W. Reeves.
By Joce Pritchett
I know that people don’t believe in love at first sight, but the second I walked up to Carla 11 years ago, I felt like I’d known her my whole life. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.
Like most couples, we’ve experienced ups and downs–we’ve managed businesses together, started a family and grown closer through everything. We’ve been blessed with two beautiful children, which means our days are filled with swim lessons, horseback riding and trips to the children’s museum. They’ve changed our lives in one thousand wonderful ways.
Last year, our little girl, Grace, came home from school and asked why we weren’t married like her friends’ parents. We had to explain to her that there were some bad laws in Mississippi that didn’t allow us to get married here. It was that day that we began planning a trip to Maine to become legally married and then had a big party in Jackson two months later to celebrate. Since then, we’ve talked with Grace a lot about changing the bad laws. How most laws are good and are there to protect us but some are bad and can hurt you–that when you find a bad law, it’s up to us as good citizens to work to change them into good laws. We’ve talked about Ruby Bridges and how she fought to change bad laws even as a child. To Grace, it’s simple. No law that hurts people should be allowed to remain. It’s simple to us too.
That’s why we’re suing for the right to be legally married in the state we call home. We love Mississippi. There’s no traffic congestion to speak of, the air is fresh and clean and the cost of living is low. More importantly, Mississippi’s hospitality is not a myth. The people in this state are generous, kind and loving, and it’s a great place to raise a family.
Part of being able to work and raise a family here, with all the safety and security we deserve as equal citizens, is our right to have our marriage recognized by the state. We are fortunate to live in a safe, protective bubble. We choose schools, restaurants, businesses, friends and even family members based on how supportive they are of us and our family. And we travel a lot to ensure that our kids see that it’s not like this everywhere. It works, but we realize how limiting it is for us.
We have to carry wills, living wills and powers of attorney whenever we go to the hospital so that in case something happens to one of us, the other will be able to make medical decisions. Without these documents, the hospital can’t treat us as a couple. This situation would be especially egregious if something happens to me and one of the kids at the same time. Because Mississippi doesn’t recognize Carla as our kids’ legal parent, she would not have access to make decisions for the injured child. It would fall to my family who is estranged from us.
We don’t pretend that marriage equality will solve all of the challenges that we face as LGBT people in Mississippi. But being legally married here would afford us the dignity under state and federal laws that our straight friends enjoy.
It’s time that our state treats us as equal citizens under the law.