LGBT rights in Mississippi

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LGBT rights in Mississippi
Mississippi (USA)
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 2003
Gender identity/expression Altering sex on birth certificate requires sex reassignment surgery
Discrimination protections None
Family rights
Recognition of
Constitution limits marriage to one man/one woman
Adoption Joint adoption illegal

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Mississippi face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Mississippi. Same-sex couples and families headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for all the protections available to opposite-sex married couples.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Mississippi since 2003, when the United States Supreme Court struck down all state sodomy laws with Lawrence v. Texas.[1]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Mississippi does not permit the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state forbids, both by statute and in its constitution, the recognition of same-sex marriages and other forms of same-sex partnership solemnized in other jurisdictions.[2] The constitutional amendment defining marriage was approved in a voter referendum on November 4, 2004.[3]

In 1978, a same-sex couple was refused a marriage license. In 1994, another same-sex couple in Ocean Springs, Mississippi applied for and was refused a marriage license.[4]

Divorce of same-sex couples[edit]

A lesbian couple, residents of Mississippi who wed in California in 2008, are asking the state to recognize their marriage in order to allow them to divorce. They have agreed on a division of their assets, but the Mississippi Attorney General's office has intervened in their divorce suit, Czekala-Chatham v. Melancon. Their lawyer contends that "There can be no legitimate state purpose in allowing bigamous or incestuous couples to divorce and not allowing the same remedy to same-sex couples".[5] The DeSoto County Chancery Court dismissed their case for lack of jurisdiction.[6] On appeal, the state Supreme Court has taken jurisdiction and allowed Governor Phil Bryant, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, to intervene to support the state's position.[7]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Mississippi permits adoption by an unmarried adult without regard to sexual orientation. Couples of the same gender may not adopt jointly.[8]

Discrimination protection[edit]

Mississippi law does not positively address discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.[9]

On April 3, 2014, Governor Phil Bryant signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed the Mississippi legislature a day earlier.[10] The act protects religious people from legal repercussions if they verbally condemn the lifestyle or actions of LGBT persons. Additionally, the bill expands the definition of an individual to include businesses, and so if a business owner thinks their religious beliefs would be violated by delivering service to an LGBT person, the Act allows them to deny them service, a move that some have called "anti-gay segregation".[11] Instead of simply not protecting LGBT persons from discrimination, the Act actually protects those who could be accused of discriminating.

As an added provision, Governor Bryant also signed a student specific version of the Act (The Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act) which protects the views of students in any educational institution from being reprimanded for their religious views. Under the bill, a school may not discipline a student for expressing anti-LGBT views either verbally or through written assignments.[12]

City Non-discrimination Resolutions[edit]

The following cities have local inclusive non-discrimination resolutions:

Hate crime laws[edit]

State law does not address hate crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation.[21]

Public opinion[edit]

Circle frame.svg

Support for same-sex marriage (2013 poll)[22]

  Against (69%)
  For (22%)
  Hard to say (9%)

A November 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that only 13% of Mississippi voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 78% were opposed and 9% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 38% of respondents supported legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 10% supporting same-sex marriage and 28% supporting civil unions, 60% opposed all legal recognition, and 2% were not sure, making Mississippi one of the most dissenting states in the country on the issue.[23]

A July 2013 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Target Point Consulting poll found that 36% of Mississippians support same-sex marriage, while 55% oppose. Among respondents below the age of 30, support is at 58%.[24] That same study found that 61% of MS residents favored state legislation that protects gay and transgender people from employment discrimination, as contrasted against 30% who opposed such legislation.

A November 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that only 22% of Mississippi voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 69% were opposed and 9% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 49% of respondents supported legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 21% supporting same-sex marriage and 28% supporting civil unions, 45% opposed all legal recognition, and 6% were not sure[22]


  1. ^ "Mississippi Sodomy Law". Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  2. ^ "Mississippi Marriage/Relationship Recognition Law". 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  3. ^ CNN: Ballot Measures, accessed May 15, 2011
  4. ^ "Legal Marriage Court Cases". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  5. ^ "Some states see fight for right to same-sex divorce". Fox News. December 1, 2013. Retrieved January 18, 2014. 
  6. ^ Maxey, Ron (December 2, 2013). "Judge rejects Mississippi woman's divorce request in same-sex marriage". The Commercial Appeal (Memphis). Retrieved January 18, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Bryant Intervenes in Same-Sex Divorce Case". WTOK. September 17, 2014. Retrieved September 17, 2014. 
  8. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Mississippi Adoption Law, accessed May 15, 2011
  9. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Mississippi Non-Discrimination Law, accessed May 15, 2011
  10. ^ New Civil Rights Movement: Mississippi Legislature Passes Discriminatory Religious Freedom Bill, accessed April 4, 2014
  11. ^ Slate: Mississippi Passed Its Anti-Gay Segregation Bill, accessed April 4, 2014
  12. ^ New Civil Rights Movement: Mississippi Governor Has Now Signed Two Anti-Gay Religious Freedom Bills Into Law, accessed April 4, 2014
  13. ^ Ferretti, Haley (2014-06-03). "Jackson Passes Pro-LGBT Resolution | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS". Jackson Free Press. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  14. ^ [1][dead link]
  15. ^ Showers, Al. "Bay St. Louis passes measure supporting LGBT community". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  16. ^ "Fifth Mississippi City Council Passes Pro-LGBT Resolution | Human Rights Campaign". 2014-04-30. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  17. ^ "Magnolia, MS Passes Pro-LGBT Resolution | Human Rights Campaign". 2014-04-22. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  18. ^ Lowrey, Erin (2014-03-04). "Oxford, MS unanimously passes Pro-LGBT resolution - WDAM.COM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports". Wdam.Com. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  19. ^ "Hattiesburg follows Starkville in passing diversity resolution". Yall Politics. 2014-02-19. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  20. ^ Johnson, Renee. "Starkville passes equality resolution supporting LGBT residents". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  21. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Mississippi Hate Crimes Law, accessed May 15, 2011
  22. ^ a b "Mississippi Miscellany" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  23. ^ "Mississippi Voters on a Variety of Topics" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  24. ^ "Progress in Mississippi" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-12-05. 

External links[edit]