JACKSON, MISS. - An attorney for two lesbian couples and a gay rights group says marriage licenses should be issued to same-sex couples in Mississippi in about 10 days.
A federal judge threw out Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriages earlier this week but gave attorneys for the state about 10 days to appeal his ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorney General Jim Hood and Gov. Phil Bryant have signaled they are preparing those arguments.
Hood says if the 5th Circuit doesn't rule in the case, Mississippi clerks may have to start issuing marriage licenses on Dec. 10 "in derogation of Mississippi's strong public policy favoring traditional marriages."
Hood also suggested that clerks would have to revise administrative and regulatory programs to accommodate recognition of same-sex marriages.
Roberta Kaplan, an attorney for the lesbian couples in the case, said the clerks give out marriage licenses every day.
"Alleviating a supposed administrative burden - if it exists - cannot counterbalance the significant constitutional rights that are at stake" for gay couples, Kaplan said.
Kaplan said the 5th Circuit can expedite consideration of the state's appeal and decide the case before Reeves' stay expires.
"More than 20 states have managed to do what was necessary to vindicate the equal rights of their gay citizens in marriage ... without wreaking havoc among the citizenry," she said.
Mississippi has a 1997 law that bans same-sex marriage and a 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Both were thrown out by Reeves. Two lesbian couples and a gay-rights group, Campaign for Southern Equality, sued on Oct. 20 to overturn the ban.
The 5th Circuit, based in New Orleans, is scheduled to hear arguments in January from a ruling that overturned Texas' ban on same-sex marriage but has been put on hold. Gay rights advocates are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before the 5th Circuit hears it; the Louisiana ban on same-sex marriage was upheld by a federal district judge.