The State of Mississippi immediately appealed a ruling last year that found its same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. During the Nov. 12, 2014, hearing, the state argued that U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves should issue a stay to give the state time to appeal and the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to rule.
In response, Reeves told state attorneys nonchalantly: Or you could just not appeal. Laughter erupted in the courtroom.
This is the perfect illustration of the state's notoriously relentless efforts to deny the right to marry to its LGBT citizens. Though it's not clear what the Legislature can do to ensure that same-sex marriage will remain banned in the state, lawmakers will probably try to this session—if for no other reason than to get political points from anti-LGBT voters.
In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Gov. Phil Bryant said: "I'm probably not an expert in the constitutional arguments before the court. But what I will say is I understand the people of the state of Mississippi spoke clearly through a constitutional amendment. ... Any governor's oath of office is to protect the constitution, and that's what I intend to do."
But even one of the most conservative legislators, Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, has begun to urge Mississippians to prepare for the overturning of the state's ban. And while he maintains that he does not support gay marriage, he has accepted that the shifting culture and legal landscape will allow LGBT citizens to marry.
The efforts of Mississippi leaders to keep same-sex marriage banned does not only hinder the ability of couples across the state from being recognized under the law, they also hinder the Legislature's ability to get real work done.
Like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that took much of the Capitol's oxygen last year, fighting gay marriage in the Legislature diverts time and money away from discussion about issues facing the state like a struggling education system and a high rate of medically insured citizens.
Because this year is an election year, legislators may try to use their opposition to gay marriage to pander to Mississippi voters. Leaders who tout protecting the sanctity of traditional marriage, though, are battling against an inevitable end and wasting the citizens' time and money.
Instead, leaders should take Gipson's lead and recognize that the ridding of discriminatory language in their state constitution is unavoidable. It is time to focus on real discussions about effective policy—what Mississippians need from their representatives.
By finally laying to rest the gay marriage fight, Mississippi might actually find the time and energy to fix real problems in the state.