You’d have thought that you’d see a Muslim governor in Mississippi before you’d see marriage equality, but it turns out you’d be wrong. A federal court has ruled that the state’s ban on marriage is unconstitutional. Just to underline how inevitable marriage equality has become even in the South, a federal judge in Arkansas struck down that state’s ban just hours before.
The ruling is on hold for two weeks while the state prepares an appeal. There are now 35 states where marriage equality is the law or been found constitutional.
Judge Carlton Reeves determined that Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage amounted to “state-sanctioned discrimination” and concluded that “same-sex couples should be allowed to share in the benefits, and burdens, for better or for worse, of marriage.” Reeves also addressed the state’s decades-long history of homophobia, calling Mississippi out for “a constellation of state laws that treat gay and lesbian Mississippians as lesser, ‘other’ people.”
It’s worth noting that both Reeves and Kristine Baker, the judge in the Arkansas case, were appointed to the bench by Obama. (Just in case you ever wonder about the consequences of elections.) It’s also worth noting that the lawyer representing the couples challenging the law was Roberta Kaplan, who represented Edie Windsor before the Supreme Court.
Reeves’ ruling is an earthquake in a state that just this year passed a bill making it legal to discriminate against LGBT people if you say Jesus told you to do so. Needless to say, heads immediately began exploding across the state as opponents of anything gay struggled to adjust to the 21st century.
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, which is headquartered in Tupelo, called on Gov. Phil Bryant to disregard the ruling altogether.
“There is one and only one short range solution to a runaway judiciary on the issue of sodomy-based marriage: a governor with the testosterone to stand up and just say no,” Fischer said. Because the judiciary has no police force, Fischer argues, “If its unconstitutional rulings are ignored, what will the Supreme Court do?”
One side effect of the Mississippi ruling is to prove data geek Nate Silver wrong. Silver had predicted that Mississippi or Alabama would be the last state to legalize marriage equality based on changes in public attitudes. Alabama isn’t looking good for Silver either.
Mississippi State Rep. Alyce Clark, who has a gay son, had the appropriate response to Reeves ruling: “Maybe we won’t be last in everything.”
True, for a change. And who is going to want to hold the title as the last state to embrace marriage equality?