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DOMA Lawyer Files Federal Lawsuit Aimed At Ending Mississippi Marriage Ban

Robbie Kaplan takes on a marriage case in the Deep South.

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Mike Segar / Reuters

Robbie Kaplan stands at right as her client, Edie Windsor, speaks about her Supreme Court victory against the Defense of Marriage Act. Kaplan is now suing to end Mississippi's ban on same-sex couples' marriages.

WASHINGTON — Two same-sex couples and the Campaign for Southern Equality went to federal court on Monday in Mississippi, suing to end the state's ban on same-sex couples' marriages.

The couples — one of whom is seeking to marry in Mississippi and one of whom is seeking recognition of their Maine marriage — and the campaign are represented by, among other lawyers, Robbie Kaplan of Paul Weiss, who represented Edie Windsor in her successful challenge to the federal marriage recognition ban in the Defense of Marriage Act.

Rebecca Bickett and Andrea Sanders wish to marry in Mississippi and are suing because they were denied a marriage license by the Hinds County Circuit Clerk in March. Jocelyn Pritchett and Carla Webb married in Maine in 2013 and are suing to have their marriage recognized.

Courts around the country, including four federal appeals courts, have since applied the Windsor decision in striking down state bans on same-sex couples' marriages. Kaplan has sought unsuccessfully to intervene or represent same-sex couples and LGBT organizations in some of those cases.

The case has been assigned to Judge Carlton Reeves, nominated to the bench by President Obama in 2010.

"Equality cannot come quickly enough to Mississippi for these families," said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, in a statement.

Referring to the wave of rulings leading to marriage equality since the Windsor decision, Kaplan said in the statement, "It is now time to take the next big step by making sure that gay families in Mississippi are accorded these same protections. The Supreme Court has made it clear that no matter where a gay person lives —whether it is in Maine, Minnesota, or Mississippi—our Constitution requires that they be treated with the same dignity and respect under the law as everyone else."

Previously, the only marriage-related litigation in the state was in a case in which a state court judge denied a request for a divorce from a same-sex couple who had married in California.

Read the full lawsuit:

Wasting no time, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on Monday afternoon, asking for the court to bar state and local officials from enforcing Mississippi's ban on same-sex couples' marriages. Here is the accompanying memorandum of law filed with the motion.

Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.

Contact Chris Geidner at

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