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.
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-2.pdf