LGBT rights in Mississippi

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Map of USA MS.svg
StatusLegal since 2003
Gender identityAltering sex on birth certificate does not require sex reassignment surgery
Discrimination protectionsNone statewide
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage since 2015
RestrictionsConstitution limits marriage to one man/one woman (ruled unconstitutional)
AdoptionJoint and stepchild adoption legal

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Mississippi face legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Mississippi. Same-sex marriage is legal in accordance with the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. However, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is not banned statewide. Jackson, Mississippi's state capital, enacted such protections in June 2016.

Mississippi is known for being a socially conservative state. A 2017 opinion poll showed that Mississippi is one of the only two states in the country where opposition to same-sex marriage outnumbers support. Additionally, the state has passed various religious freedom laws designed to protect religious beliefs, though these laws have been criticized for "giving religious people a license to discriminate" against LGBT people and have provoked both domestic and international backlash. Mississippi was also the last state to allow same-sex couples to adopt, finally relenting in May 2016 after a federal judge ruled the adoption ban unconstitutional. Despite this reputation, opinion polls have reported a trend in support for LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, with a majority of Mississippi residents now favoring an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity.[1]

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Mississippi since 2003, when the United States Supreme Court struck down all state sodomy laws in the case of Lawrence v. Texas.[2]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

On August 24, 1996, Governor Kirk Fordice issued an executive order banning same-sex marriage in the state.[3] A statute banning same-sex marriage took effect on February 12, 1997.[4] On November 4, 2004, voters approved a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.[5]

On November 25, 2014, Carlton W. Reeves, district judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, ruled Mississippi's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, but stayed enforcement of his ruling until December 9.[6] On December 4, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay pending appeal.[7]

On June 29, 2015, following the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26 in Obergefell v. Hodges that held bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, Attorney General Jim Hood informed the state's circuit clerks that they could issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and that refusal to do so might invite lawsuits on the part of those denied licenses.[8]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Mississippi has been required to recognize adoption rights for same-sex couples since a federal court ruling in March 2016, which struck down a statutory ban on same-sex couples adopting children jointly. The following details the history of this process.

Mississippi has always permitted adoption by an unmarried adult without regard to sexual orientation. Couples of the same gender were not able to adopt jointly[9] as a result of the state adopting a law banning adoption and fostering by same-sex couples in 2000. By early 2015, Mississippi was the only state that continued to enforce such a ban.[10]

In February 2013, Ronnie Musgrove, who as governor in 2000 had signed the ban, described how his views had changed and that the law "made it harder for an untold number of children to grow up in happy, healthy homes in Mississippi–and that breaks my heart".[11] On August 12, 2015, the Campaign for Southern Equality, the Family Equality Council, and four Mississippi same-sex couples filed a lawsuit challenging that ban in federal court. Their complaint noted that as of 2014, 29% of Mississippi households headed by a same-sex-couple included children under the age of 18, the highest percentage in any U.S. state.[10]

On March 31, 2016, U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan issued a preliminary injunction striking down Mississippi's ban on adoption rights for same-sex couples, declaring it unconstitutional. A spokeswoman for the state's Attorney General responded to the ruling by stating; "We respect the district court’s analysis of the law and will consult with the Department of Human Services on what options to take going forward." Any appeal is considered unlikely to succeed. The ruling made Mississippi the 50th and final state in the United States to allow same-sex couples to have adoption rights.[12][13][14] The ban was officially declared dead on May 2, 2016 after a deadline passed at midnight for Mississippi officials to appeal the federal ruling. One of the plaintiffs, Susan Hrostowski along with her wife, Kathryn Garner said: "I’ve been waiting 16 years to be able to adopt my son, so I’m overjoyed about that." Beginning May 3, 2016, any same-sex couples in the state of Mississippi may adopt children legally.[15][16]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Map of Mississippi counties and cities that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances
  Sexual orientation and gender identity with anti–employment discrimination ordinance
  Sexual orientation and gender identity solely in public employment
  Does not protect sexual orientation and gender identity in employment

Mississippi law does not address discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.[17]

The state capital of Jackson and the cities of Clarksdale,[18] and Magnolia have approved ordinances banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public and private employment.[19][20] In addition, Hattiesburg, Oxford, and Starkville have similar protections but for city employees only.[21][22][23]

Religious freedom[edit]

In recent years, the Mississippi Legislature has passed several laws protecting the beliefs of religious people.

The Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act of 2013 protects the views of students in any educational institution from being reprimanded for their religious views.

The Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects religious people from legal repercussions if they verbally condemn the lifestyle or actions of LGBT persons.

Passed in 2016, the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act protects the beliefs that marriage should be the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage, and male and female refer to an individual's biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.[24] Soon after the bill's passage, many states and cities banned public travel to Mississippi.[25][26] The bill was due to go into effect on July 1, 2016. On June 30, however, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton W. Reeves issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law.[27] On June 23, 2017, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the injunction as the plaintiffs in the case lacked standing, thus allowing the law to go into effect.

Local non-discrimination resolutions[edit]

The following cities have passed resolutions supporting the LGBT community:

Starkville passed such a resolution in January 2014. On January 6, 2015, however, the Starkville City Council voted 5-2 to repeal the equality resolution.[35][36] On January 8, 2015, Mayor Parker Wiseman vetoed the ordinance.[37] On January 21, 2015, the Starkville City Council voted 5-2 to override the Mayor's veto and repeal the equality resolution.[38]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Transgender people are allowed to change their gender on their birth certificates in Mississippi. In order to do so, they must receive a certified court order, a medical statement, and pay the required fee. The state of Mississippi will then issue an amended birth certificate. Sex reassignment surgery is not required.[39]

Hate crime law[edit]

State law does not address hate crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation.[40]

Freedom of expression[edit]

In 2018, the city of Starkville banned an LGBT pride parade from taking place. Following backlash and legal action, the city allowed the event to happen. It was held on March 24 and was the largest parade in the city's history, with about 3,000 people in attendance.[41]

Public opinion[edit]

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll found that 42% of Mississippi residents supported same-sex marriage, while 48% were opposed. 10% were undecided. Mississippi along with neighboring Alabama were the only U.S. states where opposition to same-sex marriage outnumbered support (though Alabama was the only state where an absolute majority opposed it).[1]

Nevertheless, the same poll also found that 57% supported an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity. 35% were against. Additionally, 52% were against allowing public businesses to refuse to serve LGBT people due to religious beliefs, while 36% supported such religiously-based refusals.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c PRRI: American Values Atlas 2017, Mississippi
  2. ^ "Mississippi Sodomy Law". Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  3. ^ "Mississippi Governor Bans Same-Sex Marriage". New York Times. August 24, 1996. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
  4. ^ Senate Bill 2053
  5. ^ Roberts, Joel (November 2, 2004). "11 States Ban Same-Sex Marriage". CBS News. Associated Press. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
  6. ^ Geidner, Chris (November 25, 2014). "Mississippi's Same-Sex Marriage Ban Is Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved November 25, 2014.
  7. ^ "Order and Opinion: Stay pending appeal granted". Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  8. ^ Royals, Kate (June 29, 2015). "AG gives clerks OK for same-sex marriage licenses". The Clarion-Ledger. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  9. ^ "Mississippi Adoption Law". Human Rights Campaign. Archived from the original on March 11, 2012. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Lewin, Tamar (August 12, 2015). "Mississippi Ban on Adoptions by Same-Sex Couples Is Challenged". New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  11. ^ Musgrove, Ronnie (March 20, 2013). "Portman's Conversion Should Be a Lesson". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  12. ^ "Judge blocks Mississippi ban on adoption by same-sex couples". The Boston Globe. March 31, 2016.
  13. ^ "Judge Invalidates Mississippi's Same-Sex Adoption Ban, the Last of Its Kind in America". Slate. March 31, 2016.
  14. ^ "Federal judge tosses same-sex adoption ban". Mississippi Today. March 31, 2016.
  15. ^ Holden, Dominic (May 2, 2016). "Mississippi's Gay Adoption Ban Dead After State Fails To Appeal Ruling". BuzzFeed News.
  16. ^ Prakash, Nidhi (May 3, 2016). "Same-sex adoption is finally legal in all 50 states". Fusion.
  17. ^ "Mississippi Non-Discrimination Law". Human Rights Campaign. May 15, 2011. Archived from the original on April 25, 2012.
  18. ^ Kenneth Johnson (August 20, 2018). "Clarksdale is third Mississippi city to pass LGBTQ-Inclusive Ordinance". Georgia Voice.
  19. ^ Wolfe, Anna (June 15, 2016). "Jackson council adds LGBT protections to law". The Clarion-Ledger. Archived from the original on June 15, 2016. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
  20. ^ Second Mississippi city passes major LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance
  24. ^ H.B. 1523
  25. ^ California will no longer pay for state workers to travel to anti-LGBT states
  26. ^ Harrie, Dan (April 12, 2016). "Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski bans city travel to states that have passed anti-LGBT laws". The Salt Lake Tribune.
  27. ^ Judge blocks HB 1523 from starting July 1, Cassie Archebelle, WADM, July 1, 2016
  28. ^ "Hattiesburg follows Starkville in passing diversity resolution". Yall Politics. February 19, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  29. ^ Lowrey, Erin (March 4, 2014). "Oxford, MS unanimously passes Pro-LGBT resolution - WDAM.COM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports". Wdam.Com. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  30. ^ "Magnolia, MS Passes Pro-LGBT Resolution | Human Rights Campaign". April 22, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  31. ^ "Fifth Mississippi City Council Passes Pro-LGBT Resolution | Human Rights Campaign". April 30, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  32. ^ Showers, Al. "Bay St. Louis passes measure supporting LGBT community". Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  33. ^ Waveland joins other Miss. cities with LGBT resolution
  34. ^ Ferretti, Haley (June 3, 2014). "Jackson Passes Pro-LGBT Resolution | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS". Jackson Free Press. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  35. ^ Starkville passes equality resolution supporting LGBT residents, others
  36. ^ Mississippi town rescinds health coverage for unmarried domestic partners
  37. ^ Starkville mayor vetoes board's repeal of equality resolution
  38. ^ Starkville, Mississippi Officials Override Mayor's Veto, Repeal Historic Gay-Rights Initiatives
  39. ^ ID Documents Center: Mississippi
  40. ^ "Mississippi Hate Crimes Law". Human Rights Campaign. Archived from the original on March 11, 2012. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
  41. ^ Phillips, Ryan (March 24, 2018). "Starkville Pride event largest parade in city history". Archived from the original on November 1, 2018. Retrieved June 14, 2019.