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Married Gay Couple Denied Right To Divorce In Mississippi

A gay couple who got married in California cannot get divorced in Mississippi as the marriage wasn’t recognized under state law, a Mississippi judge ruled on Monday.

ABC News reports that after Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon married in 2008, the couple bought a home in Mississippi. They can get a divorce in California, but Czekala-Chatham says she shouldn't be treated differently than straight couples. Her attorney argued that Mississippi wouldn't recognize the divorce from California, which could leave their marital property in limbo.

"I would have liked to have had the divorce, but either way he ruled, it was going to be appealed," said 51-year-old Czekala-Chatham. She has two teenage sons from a previous straight marriage.

Representatives from the Mississippi Attorney General's Office argued that the state's constitution defines a legal marriage as being between a man and a woman, and the state may not recognize same-sex unions from other states, like California, according to WMC-TV.

"This court is bound by the statute and the constitution until it's ruled unconstitutional," Judge Mitchell Lundy stated.

Czekala-Chatham and Melancon have reportedly agreed to terms of a split, but remain in what Czekala-Chatham's attorney called a "legal limbo." He argued that their rights are not as well protected without an official divorce. The next step is an appeal to the state supreme court.

Mississippi lawmakers amended state law in 1997 to say any same-sex marriage "is prohibited and null and void from the beginning. Any marriage between persons of the same gender that is valid in another jurisdiction does not constitute a legal or valid marriage in Mississippi." Seven years later, 86 percent of Mississippi voters approved an amendment placing a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution.

Sources: ABC News, WMC-TV


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