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Gay Mississippi Couples Rejected for Marriage Licenses

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 15 Jul 2013 12:18pm | comments
Jamie Owens (left) and Kurt Herbert

Gay couples across Mississippi are directly challenging the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage by applying for marriage licenses.

Couples have applied and been rejected in four Mississippi towns in recent days.

This is the scene when Jamie Owens and Kurt Herbert, who both live in Jackson, tried to apply for a license to marry in Hinds County and the county clerk Barbara Dunn turned them down.

"We love each other so much. We are together every day and we want to be treated like everyone else," Owens said.

"I know you do. But it is the Mississippi law and I cannot break the law. I am sorry," Dunn replied.

"These laws have to change. We are human beings," Owens said.

Another couple, two women who also live in Jackson, applied and were rejected.

A crowd of supporters cheered after the couples left the clerk's office.

Circuit clerk Dunn says the law is clear and the decision is out of her hands.

"Its their cause. It is not my cause. I am here to make the law to be the truth. Because the law is the law in the law book and I have to follow the law," Dunn said.

Mississippians, by a wide majority, voted to approve a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2004.

Jamie Owens applied knowing he would be rejected but he still says the denial is painful.

"I didn't know exactly how it would feel to see the word 'denied' on there until Ms. Barbara wrote it and it hurts. It is just another form of rejection that we have suffered our whole lives as gay people. It seems like it never ends. But with people who support us and people that help change the law than things can change," Owens said.

The couples are part of a campaign called 'We Do', which is organized by the Campaign for Southern Equality.

Executive Director Reverend Jasmine Beach-Ferrara says they consider same-sex marriage bans discriminatory and want to tackle them head on.

"And the goal of this action is to shine a light on and draw attention to what happens when this law is enforced. They are typically invisible because they are not very often enforced. But when it is enforced it demonstrates the harm that happens to gay and lesbian couples and families like the couples that took action today," Ferrara said.

Ferrara says they will continue to file for marriage licenses until the law is changed...however, she expects it will eventually take federal action to make same-sex marriage legal in Mississippi.

More couples will try to apply for marriage licenses in Tupelo on Thursday.


Jamie Owens (left) and Kurt Herbert



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