JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A woman is asking the conservative state of Mississippi to recognize her out-of-state gay marriage so that she can get a divorce.
Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham (Chick AH’ luh-CHAT’ um) married her wife, Dana Ann Melancon, in California, but the couple lived together in Southaven, Miss., until they separated in 2010.
Czekala-Chatham could potentially pursue a divorce in California, which exempts same-sex couple from divorce laws that generally require at least one spouse to be a resident of the state for six months. But according to the California courts website, the state might not be able to issue rulings on matters such as property ownership, debt, alimony or children.
Czekala-Chatham filed her divorce petition in DeSoto County Chancery Court on Sept. 11. Her lawyer, J. Wesley Hisaw (HIGH’-saw), said a favorable ruling on the petition would not mean that same-sex couples could get married in Mississippi because that’s banned under Mississippi statute.
“My client is not looking to start gay marriage in Mississippi. She wants the marriage from another state to be recognized so she can get a divorce and protect herself,” Hisaw said.
Czekala-Chatham said in a telephone interview Friday that she has children from a prior relationship and is concerned that Melancon could contest her will and possibly get her kids’ inheritance if they don’t get divorced. Czekala-Chatham is seeking the couple’s house in Mississippi and alimony.
Czekala-Chatham hopes Mississippi will recognize her marriage so she can get divorced even if the case goes all the way to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
“I don’t know any other way out of it,” she said.
Similar cases have popped up in other parts of the U.S. Same-sex couples are trying to use the courts to have their unions recognized by states that prohibit gay marriage following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.