July 18, 2013 10:17:57 AM
This morning in Tupelo a same-sex couple applied for a marriage license at the Lee County Courthouse as part of a campaign for marriage equality that is currently being staged in several southern states.
Even campaign organizers recognized that the attempt would be rejected, given the Constitutional amendment passed by the state in 2004 that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Similar attempts to obtain a marriage license by same-sex couples failed in Gulfport, Hattiesburg and Poplarville over the past few days.
That is not to say that the Campaign for Southern Equality views the denials of marriage licenses as a failure, however. By applying for licenses, the group has established the groundwork for future efforts to overturn Mississippi law by having the applications as part of the public record in each of the four counties.
In choosing to file for a marriage license in Tupelo, the group has taken the fight directly to the location of one of the most strident opponents of gay marriage, the American Family Association.
AFA President Tim Wildmon said through a press release, that the group's effort shows a lack of respect for the views of Mississippians, who voted overwhelmingly for the amendment denying gay couples the right to marry.
"The fact that these groups think they can simply convince judges to overturn what has already been voted into law clearly demonstrates a flagrant disrespect for the democratic process," Wildmon said.
Wildmon's explanation is a curious one, since AFA has often applauded much the same tactics in efforts to overturn abortion laws.
In 2004, 86 percent of Mississippi voters voted for the amendment banning gay marriage. But attitudes toward same-sex marriage appear to have shifted significantly in the intervening years. The Campaign for Southern Equality said recent polls show 45 percent of Mississippians now favor allowing same-sex marriage, a shift of 31 percent since that 2004 vote.
Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions indicate the legal justification for prohibiting same-sex marriage is eroding as well.
More and more, the same-sex marriage debate seems to be moving from a question of morality to a question of law. There are some obvious reasons why it should be so.
In a diverse country such as ours, moral dictates can vary from group to group and may change over time.
But when it comes to marriage, there is one universally-acknowledged truth: In every state, marriage represents a legal contract.
Only in the context of a religion is such a union considered "Holy Matrimony." A marriage between two people who claim no religious beliefs held at a courthouse falls outside of that context.
When viewed in that light, the argument that same-sex couples should not have the same rights to enter into the contract of marriage as heterosexual couples is an increasingly difficult one to make.
Just as a church whose doctrine prohibits same-sex marriage cannot be compelled to perform same-sex marriages, that church cannot dictate who can or cannot marry for those who do not ascribe to the church's doctrine. There are any number of things that are perfectly legal but that are not approved of by various religions.
Based on the strength of the legal arguments, it appears inevitable that same-sex marriage will someday be permitted throughout the country.
That said, it seems likely that Mississippi will be the last state in the union to permit same-sex marriage.
And Tupelo will be the last city in the state to concede the point.