A Mississippi judge won't let Hernando resident Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham get a divorce from the woman she married in San Francisco in 2008, nor is she getting any help from state officials. As Jim Hood, the state's Democratic attorney general reasoned, "Mississippi can't grant a divorce in a marriage it doesn't recognize," the Associated Press reported this week.
Mississippi seems to relish in not recognizing same-sex marriages. In 1997, the Legislature affirmed that Mississippi would not recognize same-sex marriages from other states and, in 2004, a statewide ballot initiative resulted in a constitutional ban on marriages between members of the same sex.
What does it say about our state's compassion that we would deny this family happiness and the opportunity to create new family bonds than give an inch on the same-sex marriage issue just because a few politicians think it's icky?
Icky is the tradition that we see every election cycle, when our mailboxes overflow with slick direct-mail pieces from political hopefuls exploiting their manicured spouses and smiling children to demonstrate their commitment to traditional family values.
Right now, the City of Jackson is taking on the Mississippi Department of Human Services over implementing a controversial finger-scan program at the city's child-care centers. MDHS is facing legal action to prevent it from requiring the scanners in centers that participate in low-income child-care assistance programs. The agency oversees several government programs that affect families, including SNAP food and child-support collections.
For the state, the mandate with the finger scanners is a stopgap against fraud, waste and abuse. The state has, up until now, ignored the pleas of people who have concerns about the privacy implications of the finger scanners.
Scanner foes, which now include Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba (See Tyler Cleveland's story, "No Fingerprinting for City Program?" in this issue), also say that the scanners disrupt poorer families that are networks of biological relatives, friends and neighbors. Under the requirements of the scan program, every individual who picks up or drops off a child at daycare has to have a finger image on file in the government's database.
What happens when people who don't want to have their fingers scanned choose not to help their neighbors with their family's child care? The family just might fall apart. And if it's true that length of devotion to one's familial unit is a measure of moral character, then it makes little sense to prevent families from forming organically. We should encourage and promote the formation of families even if they don't fit the mold of what we think of as traditional.
The choice should not be between a traditional nuclear family or none at all.