Katie Burke, The Wald Law Group
After preventing a same-sex couple’s divorce for the past two years, Mississippi came through on Tuesday, when Chancery Judge Mitchell Lundy, Jr. divorced Lauren Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon in his chambers. Melancon, who moved to Arkansas after the couple separated, was not present.
In 2013, Lundy ruled against the divorce because neither the Mississippi Constitution nor state law recognized the couple’s 2008 California marriage.
In June, the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. One month ago, the Mississippi Supreme Court cleared Lundy to issue same-sex divorces.
Before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood had opposed Czekala-Chatham’s Mississippi Supreme Court appeal. After the federal supreme court ruling, Hood asked the state supreme court to permit the divorce.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, five state supreme court justices signed an order sending the case back to Lundy, while two others dissented, suggesting that they wanted to uphold Mississippi’s same-sex marriage ban and challenge the federal supreme court ruling.
Czekala-Chatham said it has been difficult for her to find a new job following a layoff, due to the notoriety of her case.
“It’s hurt me in a lot of ways,” Czekala-Chatham said. “The only thing I’ve gotten out of this is a divorce.”
Mississippi is the only state in the U.S. that continues to ban adoption by same-sex couples. Same-sex couples have sued the state in federal court over this ban; the state is trying to get the case dismissed.
About the author:
Katie Burke is a senior associate with The Wald Law Group. She represents people in divorce and child custody cases, including complex financial dissolutions.