Obergefell, the MSSC, and Marbury v. Madison

December 1, 2015 § 2 Comments

As previously noted, the MSSC simply dismissed the appeal in the Czekala-Chatham v. State case, rather than address the merits. Two justices would have voted, in essence, to reverse Obergefell because, in their view, it was wrong, and they wrote what amounted to dissenting opinions.

Philip Thomas explains why the dissenters are swimming against the tide of legal history.

 

 

The Next Obergefell Shoe Falls

November 9, 2015 § 6 Comments

Before the US Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges on the constitutionality of same-sex-marriage bans and recognition of same-sex-marriages contracted in other states, Mississippi had its own same-sex-marriage case, Czekala-Chatham v. State of Mississippi, about which I posted previously. At the trial level, the chancellor had refused to recognize the parties’ marriage in another state, as required by the language of our state Constitution, and the appellant appealed, claiming that the Mississippi provision was contrary to the US Constitution. The State of Mississippi countered, taking the position that the ban was constitutional. As you may recall, the MSSC put that case on hold after the SCOTUS granted cert in Obergefell.

Then Obergefell came down in June, 2015, ruling unconstitutional state bans on issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples and requiring states to recognize the lawful marriages of same-sex couples in other states. Mississippi then confessed the appellant’s position in Czekala-Chatham, and the appellant then moved to dismiss the complaint and render judgment in favor of the appellant. The case has sat on the MSSC docket since then. In the four months since SCOTUS ruled, our court had been silent on its same-gender case.

On November 5, 2015, in Czekala-Chatham v. State of Mississippi, the MSSC did finally rule on the case, but only via an order that says, in essence, that, since the state had agreed that the case should bee reversed and remanded for further proceedings, “We find that no contested issues remain for resolution, and that the [appellant’s] motion should be granted. End of case for now.

The order, signed by Justice Randolph, was joined by Lamar, Chandler, and Pierce. Pierce agreed, with a separate opinion joined by Chandler. Justices Dickinson, King, and Coleman objected to the order.

All writing separate opinions would have preferred to render an opinion in the case to discuss its merits. Justice Coleman offered his objecting opinion as what he would have written to find Mississippi’s laws on the subject unconstitutional.

From the majority’s viewpoint, I suppose, the order narrowly rests on the vehicle that was presented to the court: i.e., the appellant’s motion to dismiss, and the majority did not want to venture out into areas not encompassed in the motion.

To the objectors, however, the court missed an opportunity to settle this area of law in our state so that litigants, lawyers, and judges would have a clear beacon by which to navigate.

All of the ramifications of Obergefell will become clear over time, but it will take more appeals than Czekala-Chatham to get there, it appears.

Quo Vadis Gay Marriage in Mississippi?

March 2, 2015 § 3 Comments

The MSSC has the gay-marriage issue before it, as does the SCOTUS.

Last Thursday the Mississippi court issued an order calling for more briefing and indicating that it may well stay the Mississippi appeal until the SCOTUS can rule.

You can read the MSSC order in the case of Czekala-Chatham v. State of Miss. for yourself, with objecting opinions, but here is what the court wants briefed:

In light of Mississippi’s public policy of not allowing or recognizing a marriage between two persons of the same gender, what rational basis supports the interpretation or application of a law or constitutional provision so as to prohibit Mississippi courts from granting a divorce to a Mississippi resident who was lawfully married in another state to a person of the same gender?

So, what does this portend?

The only clear indication is in the three objections: Chandler clearly would uphold the Mississippi laws; King and Kitchens would not.

Oh, and the other pretty clear direction in this case is that it apparently will be sidetracked to let the feds decide the issue. Justice King decries that as a dereliction of duty.

It’s an interesting case. Stay tuned.

 

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