Gay Couple Denied Divorce After Miss. Judge Rules Marriage Not Recognized in State

A gay couple who got married in California was denied divorce on Monday in Mississippi after a judge ruled that their marriage is not recognized under state law.

Desoto County Chancery Judge Mitchell Lundy said in Monday's decision that he "can't grant a legal divorce if there's no legal marriage."

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham, 51, filed for divorce from her partner, Dana Melancon, in September at north Mississippi's DeSoto County. The couple had married in 2008 in San Francisco and separated in 2010.

Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood explained in a motion to intervene on Nov. 15 that such a divorce cannot be granted, since Mississippi's law states that gay marriage "is prohibited and null and void from the beginning. Any marriage between persons of the same gender that is valid in another jurisdiction does not constitute a legal or valid marriage in Mississippi."

Hood noted that Mississippi "has no obligation to give effect to California laws that are contrary to Mississippi's expressly stated public policy."

Feeling like a "second-class citizen," Czekala-Chatham commented to the Associated Press, "It's humiliating to know that you spend that money, that time to be in a committed relationship and for it to end. I mean, that hurts. But then to be in a state that doesn't recognize you as a human being, or recognize you for who you are, for who you love, it's hard."

Boston lawyer Peter Zupcofska said "the idea you can't go to your local courthouse and file for divorce is very disruptive," and described gay couples having to travel to states that allow gay marriage and divorce "an enormous waste of effort and time," according to AP.

James Esseks, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, commented, "The marriage system is a way we recognize and protect the commitments people make to their partner. "Part of that system is creating a predictable, regularized way of dealing with the reality that relationships sometimes end. Those are the times people are the worst to each other, and that's why we have divorce courts. There's got to be an adult in the room."

The majority of Mississippians are opposed to gay marriage according to a July Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Target Point Consulting poll, in which 55 percent of respondents said that they are not in favor of same-sex marriage, while 36 percent expressed approval.

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