Saturday, August 13, 2022

Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Filed at Lafayette Chancery Court

The We DO campaign is an ongoing project of the Campaign for Southern Equality, according to Lindsey Simerly, the campaign’s manager. Here is an excerpt from Simerly’s press release naming the counties where same-sex marriage registrations occurred due to the We Do Campaign:
“Organized by the Campaign for Southern Equality, this statewide day of action for marriage equality will involve local couples recording their licenses in Amite, Desoto, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Lafayette, Lamar, Oktibbeha and Pearl River counties.”
The Lafayette County Chancery Court filed these marriage licenses under “miscellaneious”, said Sherry Walls, Chancery Court chief clerk. “The Miscellaneous category is any document that does not have a legal description for land attached to it. Such as, contracts, trust, agreements, etc. The filing of any document doesn’t give it legal standing,” Walls added “We simply record anything and everything, then a judge has to determine if it is legal or has any standing.”
Stacey and Anna Harkins signed “Stacey and Anne Harkins” on their marriage license Wednesday. They were married in New York City on November 7, 2012.

Stacey (left) and Anna (right) pose with an Oxonian named Alissa Davis with her 4 year old daughter, Virginia, who drew the picture for them.
Stacey (left) and Anna (right) pose with an Oxonian named Alissa Davis with her 4 year old daughter, Virginia, who drew the picture for them.

“At that time there were only a couple of options for where we could get married,” Stacey said. “We have several very close friends who live in NYC, so we knew it would be the best place for us to celebrate. Our wedding was amazing. It was so incredible to be able to apply for a license and have everyone treat us as a legitimate married couple.”
She said when she and her wife were riding a bus in New York City, a friend announced they were recently married and the whole bus clapped uproariously. She and Anna were overjoyed until they flew back home. Stacey said, “I looked at Anna and said, ‘At least we were legal for five days.’ I was joking but it really had an emotional impact on us as we realized just how true those words were.”
The Harkins said they have some benefits on the federal level, but none on the state level. Some of their family members recognize them as a couple, but many do not. They are aware that Mississippi does not recognize them as a couple, but they do not let that define their relationship.
“People have told us, ‘If you don’t like our laws, just leave.’ But Anna and I were both born and raised in Mississippi. We are both second generation Ole Miss graduates,” Stacey said. “When we planned our wedding in New York, we still planned it around the Ole Miss football game. I don’t understand how people can discriminate against us, but I really don’t understand who has a wedding on a football game day! Ha!”
She and Anna watched Vanderbilt squeak by Ole Miss in “a heartbreaking loss” at the Wharf Bar and Grill with members of the Ole Miss Club of NYC in 2012, three days after their wedding.
The couple raised two of Stacey’s sons from her previous marriage. Her youngest son will be the third generation to go to Ole Miss this fall. Anna works at AT&T while Stacey is a full-time student working towards her second degree: a BSN in nursing.
“We work and pay our bills and go to dinner with our friends and spoil our schnauzer, Andy, rotten,” Stacey said. “We eat at Ajax, support our Rebels, and love Oxford just like anyone else. This is our state, too. We love Oxford. We love the people and the land that generations of our family members have chosen as their home.”
They recounted filing their marriage license at Lafayette Chancery Court as “exciting and exhilarating.” Since registering their marriage license is still illegal in Mississippi they opted to record their license in a miscellaneous lands records book at the Chancery Court. It’s certainly a step in the right direction.
“What we did has absolutely no bearing on any of the laws of this state,” Stacey said. “It was a ceremonial act. Knowing our names are recorded in a book for our grandchildren to find is a remarkable feeling, though…We want people to know we were here.”
Sonya Wingo and Jenny Burkett were another couple that recorded their same-sex, out-of-state marriage license at the Lafayette County Chancery Court on Wednesday. They were invited to take part in We DO campaign by Stacey Hawkins who they met in Pensacola Fla. They married in Cairo, Illinois this past June. Their romance began nearly two years ago, though, when they met on September 25 and became official on October 11, 2012.
“It was not something she or I were planning on,” Burkett said. “However, it felt as though we were just simply meant to be together and that we found each other for a reason, and we have been pretty much inseparable since then. We found it difficult to stay away from each other, and even though we lived an hour and half away from each other we couldn’t go more than a few days without seeing each other.” Burkett said her biggest concern was her two children: Molly, who is six, and Mason, who will be five in September. However, she said, “Sonny has treated them as her own from the moment she met them and we became serious.”
Last January, Burkett moved to Oxford to be with Wingo. She said her daughter loves her school in Oxford, as well as Wingo’s family, who accepted them with open arms. On January 31, Wingo proposed and Burkett said yes.
On June 10, 2014, they traveled to Cairo to apply for their marriage license. They chose Illinois because it was the “closest to home” than other states that allow same-sex marriage.
Burkett, Wingo, Burkett’s mother and her two children arrived in Cairo at 7 a.m. and got ready by the banks of Mississippi River. Burkett said, “[T]he town was so small that there was virtually nowhere near that we could go that was open that early in the morning!” Burkett remembered that she and Wingo were met by smiling faces in the courthouse and they were congratulated for making a commitment to each other. They married in the judge’s office and returned to Mississippi at noon.
“It was a very bittersweet and happy day for us because it was one more step closer to equality for us,” Burkett added. She and Wingo are aware that recording their license does not grant them legitimacy in Mississippi though.
“The fact we can and now do have our license on record at the courthouse is a big step for us because now it can be known we are married,” Burkett said. “Even though the license is merely only on record and not filed as other couples have the privilege of doing and receiving the same benefits, we are one step closer to marriage equality, and to me, that is a big deal, especially here in Mississippi.”
Burkett and Wingo are having a ceremony to celebrate their marriage in Southaven on October 11 this year, the same day they became an official couple. “We are so excited to get to share our love with our family and friends!”
Burkett concluded, “I hope that one day when we look back at this moment we can be proud of ourselves for taking part in making history and bringing us closer to equality.”
The third couple to record their marriage license were Patricia Miller and Gail Stratton, a couple Harkins noted have been together for 25 years and were the first to file their Connecticut marriage license. They are pictured in the group photo of those who took part in the We DO campaign.
(Front, from left:) Pat Miller, Anna Harkins and Jenny Burkett.  (Back, from left:)  Gail Stratton, Stacey Harkins and Sonya Wingo
(Front, from left:) Pat Miller, Anna Harkins and Jenny Burkett.
(Back, from left:) Gail Stratton, Stacey Harkins and Sonya Wingo

Go to We DO campaignfor more information on the We DO Campaign and how Mississippi is making strides toward marriage equality.
Callie Daniels, reporter for HottyToddy.com, can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com

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