U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves overturned the Mississippi same-sex marriage ban Tuesday in what some are calling a “historic” ruling.
Reeves released a preliminary injunction for Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant that will be postponed for 14 days in a legal measure called a “stay” to give the state a chance to appeal.
Same-sex couples cannot currently obtain marriage licenses in Mississippi until the stay is up.
Reeves’ decision is met with another federal judge’s in Arkansas that similarly struck down the state’s definition of a legal marriage, according to The Associated Press. Their rulings together will make 35 states that have made moves towards marriage equality.
Reeves’ 72-page order acknowledged Mississippi’s previous disapproval of same-sex marriage, as determined by a landslide vote of 86 percent in 2004 and reiterated by the defendants in the Nov. 12 hearing.
“The judiciary enforces individual rights against the tyranny of the majority. It does not matter how political the issue; how reviled the individual; or how vocal, politically savvy, and passionate the majority. That is its duty under Article III of the United States Constitution,” Reeves wrote. “It is with this understanding that the court considers same-sex marriage.”
Brandiiilyne Dear, founder of LGBTQ+ support group The Dandelion Project, was overwhelmed with emotion upon receiving the news of the hearing.
“Everything that we have suffered, everything that we have fought for… Today, we are justified,” Dear said. “Today I, like every other red blooded American, now have the right to the pursuit of happiness.”
Mississippi currently has a 1997 law alongside the 2004 voter-approved state amendment that defined marriage between a man and a woman.
Campaign for Southern Equality and two lesbian couples filed a lawsuit on Oct. 20 to challenge “same-sex marriage ban,” claiming the laws and provisions discriminated against same-sex couples by depriving them of their Fourteenth Amendment rights.
Reeves conceded that the ban violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
“The court concludes that Mississippi’s same-sex marriage ban deprives same-sex couples and their children of equal dignity under the law. Gay and lesbian citizens cannot be subjected to such second-class citizenship,” Reeves wrote.
Attorney Gen. Jim Hood said late Tuesday he is prepared to appeal Reeves’ ruling at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the same court to hear same-sex hearing Jan. 5 for Louisiana and Texas.
The defendants of the case are Hood, Gov. Phil Bryant and Hinds County Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn.
The state argued that the same-sex marriage ban was to promote “responsible procreation” by “defining marriage as between a man and woman steers opposite sex couples’ potentially procreative conduct into stable and enduring family relationships and thereby furthers the legitimate state interest of connecting children to stable families formed by their biological parents.”
The state laid an attempt to protect traditional marriage as the definition has been “understood as the norm for centuries.” Defendants also pulled in 2004’s voter majority against same-sex marriage, stating, “fundamental social change is better cultivated through democratic consensus.”
Roberta Kaplan, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, told The Clarion Ledger she foresees winning the case.
Kaplan also spoke enthusiastically about Reeves’ decision.
“We’re thrilled that Judge Reeves understood and appreciated and took such great care and time to explain why gay people have the same rights under the constitution as everyone else,” she said. “I think this opinion is going to stand as truly as a landmark opinion in this area.”
As of today, an estimated 3,484 same-sex couples live in the state, according to the most recent decennial census.