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Mississippi May Be Next State to Allow Same-Sex Marriages
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A ruling from a judge in Mississippi may mean that gay couples can get married very soon.

Summary: A highly-anticipated ruling by a Mississippi judge may allow same-sex couples to marry, legal experts predict.

Mississippi may be the next state to join the many that have already ruled same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional. According to the Clarion Ledger, six of the country’s top legal scholars predict that U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves will grant a preliminary injunction to Mississippi’s ban on gay marriages. The injunction was sought by the Campaign for Southern Equality in a case filed against the state.


Click here to read about the states that currently recognize gay marriage.

John Eastman, of the National Organization for Marriage, stated, “Not a single Clinton- or Obama-appointed judge has ruled in favor of marriage laws since U.S. v. Windsor. I’d be surprised if Reeves became the first one.”

The Windsor case, which was heard before the United States Supreme Court in 2013, challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The court found that the Act was unconstitutional. Roberta Kaplan, Windsor’s lawyer, also represented the Campaign for Southern Equality last week before Judge Reeves. Reeves was appointed in 2010 by President Obama.

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Most feel that Reeves will issue his ruling this week. Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, noted, “He might have already started writing his opinion and just had wanted to see what the people said in court. I’d be surprised if it went more than a week.”

Click here to read about the Supreme Court’s rejection of gay marriage appeals.

On Wednesday, over five hours of oral arguments were presented before Judge Reeves. The judge stated he would rule “as soon as possible.” There are three possible outcomes: grant the injunction; deny the injunction; or, finally, grant the injunction with a “stay,” which will prevent the injunction from taking effect for a prescribed period of time.

Legal experts mostly feel that Judge Reeves will grant the injunction, but not the stay. This would mean that, effective immediately, same-sex couples would be able to get married in Mississippi.

Evan Wolfson, the Founder of Freedom to Marry, which advocates for gay marriage, stated, “The criteria for issuing a stay are very clear. A stay is only supposed to be issued when the losing party has a likelihood of success on appeal. And given that virtually every appellate court has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry…there is no reason in prolonging this discrimination even one day more.”

What should the judge rule?

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However, the fight for gay marriage will not end with Judge Reeves’ ruling. Many experts also think that the state of Mississippi will seek a stay from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which they predict will be granted. Eastman stated that Reeves’ ruling will be temporary, since the state will seek and likely win a stay from the 5th Circuit.

Dale Carpenter, a University of Mississippi law professor, noted that “The state could decide not to appeal the decision. I don’t know Mississippi politics very well, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be a popular option.”

Most predict that the state will indeed appeal should Judge Reeves grant the injunction, and, since the 5th Circuit has scheduled oral arguments in January to hear cases involving gay marriage bans in Louisiana and Texas, a stay would be granted.

Click here to read about a Louisiana judge that upheld the state’s gay marriage ban.

The 5th circuit will conduct the hearings with a three-judge panel. A decision could be handed down in just a few months. Many experts hypothesize that the 5th circuit will be just the second federal court of appeals to rule in favor of gay marriage bans.

Four out of five courts that have ruled on the gay marriage issue have struck down gay marriage bans. Professor Matt Steffey of the Mississippi College of Law explained, “Unless the plaintiffs get very lucky with the selection of panel of judges, I think the 5th will reverse the decision of Judge Reeves.”

It is likely that the Supreme Court will eventually hear the gay marriage issue, since circuits are divided. Most legal experts feel that the highest court in the nation will allow gay marriage. Andrew Koppelman, a law professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, predicted, “The overall pattern is sweeping across the United States and will find its way to Mississippi eventually, probably in the next five years, possibly even sooner.”

Koppelman and other legal scholars think that the Supreme Court will hear arguments in either April or October, meaning that rulings would be published in June or December, respectively. Koppelman added, “My guess is that when his feet are held to the fire, [Justice] Anthony Kennedy will find that same-sex couples have the right to marry.”

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