Today at 1:30, the Court will hear the case of Lauren Beth Czckala v. State. This is the case where a lesbian couple was denied an uncontested divorce. Mississippi residents Lauren and Dana married in San Francisco in 2008. Lauren later sought a divorce in Mississippi. Dana contested it on the grounds that the state could not grant a divorce because it did not recognize homosexual marriages. At this point, the chancellor notified the State that there were constitutional issues involved. The state of Mississippi intervened and filed to dismiss based on the same grounds urged by Dana. Although Lauren and Dana eventually agreed to the divorce and a property settlement, the trial court held that it had no authority to grant a divorce. Lauren and Dana reached a property settlement agreement that was noted in the Court’s final judgment.
Lauren appealed the judge’s decision that they could not be granted a divorce pursuant to Mississippi law summarizing her position as:
The trial court erred in failing to recognize a same-sex marriage for the purpose granting an uncontested divorce. The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires that Lauren’s same-sex marriage be recognized by the State of Mississippi. Furthermore, the Mississippi Statutes and state constitutional amendment violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States constitution in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor. DOMA §2 cannot authorize a state to give no recognition to a same-sex marriage.
The list of court decisions grows each week and a number of other state courts have reached the same conclusions. A complete copy of all opinions regarding the above cases and new cases as they are completed is located at http://www.freedomtomarry.org/litigation. Baker v. Nelson is no longer binding precedent in light of significant developments since the time that case was decided.
The State summarizes it position thusly:
The United States Supreme Court’s Windsor decision did not create any new right to enter into same sex marriage or to require States to recognize same sex marriages authorized in other jurisdictions. Neither did Windsor change how state laws regarding same sex marriage should be analyzed under the Fourteenth Amendment. To the contrary, Windsor reinforced States’ rights and recognized interests in defining and recognizing marriage as only between a man and a woman
by barring the federal government from disturbing a State’s decision whether to
allow or recognize same sex marriages. Windsor does not support CzekalaChatham’s
constitutional claims or alter how they must be evaluated. Czekala-Chatham’s contentions that Mississippi’s traditional marriage laws violate the Fourteenth Amendment are invalid for several reasons. First, Baker v. Nelson, 490 U.S. 810 (1972), the United States Supreme Court’s first, and only, precedent addressing the issue of whether States’ prohibitions on same sex
marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment is still binding precedent today.
Baker has not been implicitly overruled through “doctrinal developments.” That is
a concept the Supreme Court does not endorse. Baker forecloses CzekalaChatham’s
Fourteenth Amendment claims unless, and until, the Supreme Court
decides to overrule its own precedent.
State of Mississippi’s brief
Phil Bryant filed an amicus brief in support of the State’s position
The ACLU filed an amicus in support of Lauren
The argument can be viewed here.
The case is generating a lot of interest. So much so that the Court issued a memo for media intending to cover the proceedings.