OUR OPINION: Supreme Court opens marriage ban challenges

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippians expressed their views on same-gender marriage in 2004, placing in the state constitution a prohibition against it which will stand, at least for the time being, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings Tuesday dealing favorably with the rights of gay couples in relation to federal benefits and allowing resumption of gay marriage in California in a separate case.
However, as several attorneys and constitutional experts noted, Tuesday’s rulings suggest challenges ahead for Mississippi’s ban and restrictions on recognizing gay marriages performed in states where it is legal.
It seems likely that litigation could follow any ruling barring gay couples married legally elsewhere from collecting federal benefits because they reside in Mississippi. That issue is not explicitly addressed.
It is however accepted that Mississippi will have no obligation arising from the rulings to pay spousal benefits to gay couples.
Marriage, as had been noted countless times since the rulings were announced Wednesday morning, historically is viewed as state issue, with states generally accepting by reciprocity martial status of opposite sex couples as they move from state-to-state. That has not been the case with gay couples married elsewhere.
In the ruling on California’s Proposition 8, the court says that the parties appealing a lower court’s ruling overturning the ban on same-sex marriage had no legal precedent to bring the appeal. That means the lower court’s ruling stands and same-gender marriages can resume in California. Gov. Jerry Brown said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must first lift its stay, and that could happen quickly.
The order does not require Mississippi or any other state to provide state marriage benefits to same-sex couples if that state does not recognize same-sex marriage.
It is not clear apparently what happens when legally married same-sex couples reside in states like Mississippi where gay marriage is not legal. Will those federal benefits be allowed?
Uncertainty rises from residency. Some constitutional scholars say it is unclear right now whether the Supreme Court ruling will allow for federal benefits for same-sex couples who live in states like Mississippi where same-sex unions are not recognized.
Marriage policy will continue to be determined at the state level. More than 30 states have defined marriage between one man and one woman, and a dozen have enacted same-sex marriage. That will not change because of the rulings.
Many Mississippians have expressed their opinions about the rulings, but for now the status quo prevails in our state, until more challenges require changes.