By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON – In a move that’s more symbolic than substantial, same-sex couples in seven Mississippi counties were allowed to file out-of-state marriage licenses into chancery court land records Wednesday, while couples were barred from filing documents in one coastal county.
Couples said filing the papers does not overturn Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage, but it does provide a public record that they are living as families in the state.
“It doesn’t give us any rights that we didn’t already have. It is a way to create a vital record for historical purposes that we were here,” said Joce Pritchett of Jackson.
Pritchett married her wife, Carla Webb, in Maine in 2013, and they have two young children. Pritchett said employees in the Hinds County chancery clerk’s office greeted them with smiles and wishes for good luck on Wednesday when they recorded their Maine license with their local land records.
“It means a lot to us,” she said. “It’s a way to force them to recognize that we exist.”
A North Carolina-based gay rights group, Campaign for Southern Equality, organized the effort, and group spokesman Aaron Sarver said 13 couples were allowed to file papers in Amite, Desoto, Hancock, Hinds, Lafayette, Lamar and Pearl River counties. Four couples were not allowed to file in coastal Harrison County.
Lindsey Simerly, who’s leading the Campaign for Southern Equality’s efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, said recording out-of-state marriage licenses with Mississippi land records creates a public record that future generations can search to see that same-sex couples were living in the state before their marriages were legally recognized.
The group said 2012 Census data showed there were 3,488 same-sex households in Mississippi, and 26 percent of them were raising children – the highest percentage of any state.
“We want to be clear that all across Mississippi, in every town and city, there are same-sex couples,” Sarver said.