The Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage will have repercussions both in the state and on the University of Mississippi campus.
Though the Supreme Court ruled on Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, Mississippi did not begin issuing licenses until Monday.
“The attorney general was smart to resolve that sooner than later,” Michèle Alexandre, an associate professor at the law school, said. “When it comes down to it, they have to obey the law.”
Alexandre said this decision has received a lot of criticism, like that of Gov. Phil Bryant, because marriage is, in most cases, left to the purview of the state government.
According to 16 WAPT News, a federal appeals court is giving Gov. Phil Bryant until Wednesday to give reasons for his opposition of lifting the stay on same sex marriage in Mississippi. In a statement, Bryant said, “Today, a federal court has usurped that right to self-governance and has mandated that states must comply with federal marriage standards—standards that are out of step with the wishes of many in the United States and that are certainly out of step with the majority of Mississippians.”
Alexandre said these rights are applicable only when the court does not violate a Constitutional right of an individual or group. This decision did not infringe on that right, she said, because the question was of the one of the Constitutional right of same-sex couples.
“This is the way our system works,” Alexandre said. “When there is something that is subject to contention like this case, the Supreme Court steps in to resolve it.
Alexandre said the court framed the opinion in a way that gave the right to marriage without extending further rights to same-sex couples. This, she said, was done purposely so that no blanket statements were made without regard to unforeseen outcomes.
“The opinion was very straightforward. It extends the fundamental right that all of us have to marriage,” Alexandre said. “They could have gone, on the equal protection clause, further. They could have done that, but they didn’t. It might be left for another day.”
Spencer Pleasent, co-president of the UM Pride Network, said, though he spent the majority of Friday celebrating this long-fought victory, he was disappointed that Mississippi delayed adhering to the Supreme Court ruling.
“Mississippi wanted to take a step back from it and that’s not progression,” Pleasent said. “It should not have to be an issue for a same-sex couple to do anything that a straight couple would want to do. That’s all we’re asking for, the simple equality.”
On campus, Pleasent said he has seen growth in the Pride Network has seen the effects of a supportive campus.
“Just this past year, we have really started to see change,” Pleasent said. “The Pride Network’s numbers have increased so much.”
Pleasent said the next step for the UM Pride Network will be to increase awareness and inclusion on campus.
“This campus that I love so much promises me full inclusion and I want to make sure that’s completely accurate,” Pleasent said.
Donald Cole, vice chancellor for academic affairs and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs, said there would be changes too, in the university. Married housing, which has as yet only been available to heterosexual couples, will now have the opportunity to expand to include same-sex marriages as well, Cole said.
“We do have limited married housing on campus and (the question of same-sex tenants) has not come up as of yet to my knowledge,” Cole said. “It hasn’t been challenged but as soon it’s challenged, we’re going to do the right thing.”
Cole said he did not see the Supreme Court’s decision it as a controversial ruling.
“I saw no other decision they could make,” Cole said. “They were asked to rule whether or not the constitution could deny someone of something. Marriage happened to be both a religious and a secular ceremony. They were not ruling religiously; they were ruling constitutionally.”
Associate Student Body president Rod Bridges said he believes legalization is in line with the university’s creed.
“The first sentence in Ole Miss’ Creed is, ‘I believe in respect for the dignity of each person,’” Bridges said. “Respect is a bipartisan value. Neither Republicans nor Democrats can dispute the notion that every individual of every ethnicity, race and sexual orientation, deserves some respect.”
Bridges said he does not believe the legalization of same-sex marriage will affect the university strongly.
“I believe that our campus community is exemplary in the fact that we respect one another,” Bridges said. “Yes, there are outliers who don’t believe in following this constantly, but they’re a very vocal minority. I wholeheartedly trust that students will continue to love one another and not discriminate based on orientation.”
Cole said the university had a responsibility in this state to be a leader in such issues.
“People look to educational institutions for leadership. As an institution, we can present our findings as an educated society,” Cole said. “Basic human rights is one thing we should stand for.”