September 25, 2014


CONTACT: Morgan Miller, ACLU of Mississippi, 601-354-3408;

JACKSON, Miss – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi (ACLU-MS) filed a “friend of the court” brief with the Mississippi Supreme Court in Chatham v. State of Mississippi, a case that would allow a same-sex couple to be legally divorced. The organizations assert that denying a couple the right to a divorce infringes upon their constitutional right to due process and equal protection.

“Mississippi’s failure to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions is forcing people to stay in harmful relationships,” said Charles Irvin, Legal Director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “That’s why we filed today and why the ACLU is fighting to see the day when all Americans’ marriages are recognized in all 50 states.”

Lauren Czekala-Chatham was legally and lawfully married to Dana Ann Melancon in 2008 in California and the women separated in 2010. In 2013, a DeSoto County Chancery judge ruled that Mississippi’s Constitution and other provisions prohibit granting a divorce. After the ruling, Ms. Chatham filed for an appeal challenging the constitutionality of the state’s failure to recognize legally valid marriages performed in other states and exclude same-sex couples from any legal status that provides rights, benefits, or duties that are similar to heterosexual couples’ marriages. The Mississippi Supreme Court has taken up her case.

“The unfair patchwork of state marriage laws presents unique legal challenges across the country as some states recognize marriages from other jurisdictions and some don’t,” said Joshua Block, Staff Attorney for the ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. “This case again shows the real and concrete harm caused by treating same-sex couples differently state by state and why we are supporting the right of all Mississippians to make important decisions about their relationships.”

In addition to the nineteen states that have legalized same-sex marriage, a number of states with a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage similar to Mississippi’s have granted divorce for same-sex couples. There is pending litigation by ACLU affiliates and other organizations in thirty four states. 

The brief is available here.

Learn more about the ACLU's Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Project.