Almost half of the United States lives in a state with some kind of legal recognition for gay couples so some argue it will just be a matter of time before Mississippi joins the rest; it might also be a smart economic move for the southern state.
Important background on Mississippi’s history with gay marriage goes back to 1996 when Governor Kirk Fordice issued an executive order banning same-sex marriages. His intention was to fortify an existing anti-sodomy law–while it was reviewed in courts and Congress–keep county clerks from issuing marriage licenses, and invalidate any granted to gay couples by other states. His take was that ”same-sex marriage makes a mockery out of the institution of marriage, which is already embattled.” Denying benefits to spouses of gay state government employees was a result of the order; it also showed private employers that they were not obligated to recognize gay unions.
Mississippi was the first state to bar gay marriage by executive order.
Since the executive order could feasibly be debated, gay marriage was officially banned in a constitutional amendment on November 2, 2004 with an 86 percent majority vote. Prior to the ban, there was already a statute (1997) making gay marriage illegal. The ban’s weak spots may be that it does not necessarily ban civil unions or any other legal protections. Singles, for instance, can adopt regardless of their sexual orientation but gay couples cannot.
Deemed the most conservative state in the country, it is no surprise that there is very little talk about gay marriage in Mississippi. If there is, it is not being published, but a Public Policy Polling survey gives a good idea of how slowly this issue might progress here as “a 46% plurality of registered Republican voters said they thought interracial marriage was not just wrong, but that it should be illegal.”
Hope is even further diminished because Equality Mississippi closed its doors in 2008 due to financial problems, evidence that large groups and organizations struggle to fight for marriage equality in the Deep South.
Lastly, more evidence that Mississippi is likely to lag behind for a long time on LGBT issues, happened in Fulton in 2010 when a huge scandal was made out of a high school student wanting to wear a tuxedo to prom and take her girlfriend as her date.
Also, Kevin Garrard and Stephen Walters were turned down when they applied to rent out the
church at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum. The musuem had apparently already consulted the Attorney General regarding the matter, who responded:
“We are of the opinion that the Department (of Agriculture and Commerce) is certainly authorized to restrict the use of museum property for events and functions that are legal under state law…therefore, (the department) is authorized to prohibit same gender marriages on museum property.”
Can same-sex couples marry in Mississippi? No.
Are gay marriages that were granted elsewhere recognized? No.