Current status: On November 25, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves ruled in this case, striking down Mississippi’s law banning marriage between same-sex couples. On June 26, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all 50 states.
Case Name: Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant I
Date Filed: October 20, 2014
Plaintiffs: Andrea Sanders and Rebecca Bickett; Jocelyn Pritchett and Carla Webb; and the Campaign for Southern Equality, on behalf of its members in Mississippi
Legal Team: Lead counsel for the plaintiffs was Roberta Kaplan, joined by a team of attorneys from her firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Robert McDuff and Sibyl Byrd of McDuff Byrd in Jackson, Mississippi are also counsel, as is Diane Walton of CSE’s Legal Team. Kaplan was also lead counsel in United States v. Windsor, the landmark case that struck down sections of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant I was the first legal challenge to the Mississippi state law banning marriage between same-sex couples. It was filed in federal court in the Southern District of Mississippi and assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves. Oral arguments took place in early November 2014 and focused on the experiences of plaintiff couples, both of whom are raising children.
“My family is no less a family than any other,” said plaintiff Rebecca Bickett, who has been with her partner, Andrea Sanders, for ten years. The women are mothers to young twin sons. Like many other LGBT families in the state, they have not been able to afford the expenses required to travel out of Mississippi to wed.
“It’s time we are able to live with legal protections in our home state,” said plaintiff Jocelyn Pritchett. Born and raised in Mississippi, Carla Webb and Jocelyn Pritchett are mothers to a daughter and a son. They were legally wed in Maine in 2013 and their marriage is recognized by the federal government. Mississippi, however, regards them as legal strangers.
Judge Reeves issued a ruling on November 25, 2014 striking down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage, with the full order available here: http://bit.ly/2soeijM. A stay was also issued, meaning that the marriage ban would remain in effect until a higher court ruled.
The state of Mississippi appealed this ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and on January 9, 2015, the higher court heard oral arguments in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant I. The case was heard by the same Fifth Circuit panel of judges as the De Leon and Robicheaux marriage cases from Texas and Louisiana, respectively.
On June 26, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges finding that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry in all 50 states. A Circuit Clerk in Forrest County, began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples later that day. In the days that followed, a few more counties followed suit, but most did not. Our Legal Team quickly filed papers with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking an order that would lift the stay on Judge Reeves ruling and ensure that same-sex couples could marry in every Mississippi county. That order was issued on July 1, 2016 and shortly afterwards, all 82 counties across the state were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
List of Documents:
January 9, 2015: Audio of hearings before 5th Circuit: http://1.usa.gov/1IEVOcC
November 25, 2014: Judge Reeves’s ruling: www.southernequality.org/Ruling-from-Judge-Reeves.pdf
October 20, 2014: Preliminary Injunction Brief: www.southernequality.org/D.E.-5-Preliminary-Injunction-Brief.pdf
October 20, 2014: Motion for Preliminary Injunction: www.southernequality.org/D.E.-4-Motion-for-Preliminary-Injunction.pdf
October 20, 2014: Complaint: www.southernequality.org/D.E.-1-Complaint.pdf