On Wednesday, Hernando couple Nathan Tipton and Paul Foster went to the DeSoto County Chancery Court Clerk's office and recorded their marriage, even though same-sex marriage isn't legal yet in Mississippi. The pair, who married at the Mall of America in Minnesota in June, were able to record their marriage under "miscellaneous information" in county land records, which, through a bit of a loophole in the state's law, doesn't prohibit same-sex couples from recording such information there.
Tipton and Foster were one of 17 Mississippi couples across the state who recorded their marriage this week, an action organized by the Campaign for Southern Equality. The pair recently held a wedding reception for their friends in Memphis at the Jack Robinson Gallery. They took a few minutes to talk about their decision to participate in Wednesday's action.
Flyer: How and where did you meet? And how long have you two been together?
Nathan: We met on July 31, 1993, on a blind date set up by two mutual friends. We were informed that we were going to a hoe-down at Holy Trinity (I wish I was making that up, but I'm not.). Neither of us knew that the other had been invited until they picked us up.
We had our 21st anniversary on July 31st. I proposed to Paul on July 27, 2013, not long after the Supreme Court overturned [the Defense of Marriage Act].
You married recently in Minnesota. Why Minnesota? Why not wait for Mississippi to get same-sex marriage?
Paul: When we started discussing getting married, Iowa was the closest legal state, but we wanted it to be a "destination wedding" and Iowa doesn't have any real "destinations." So we opted to get married at the Mall of America in Minneapolis.
In terms of why we didn't wait for Mississippi, honestly, we're not getting any younger.
A number of friends and family followed you to Minnesota for the wedding, right? Tell me about the ceremony.
Nathan: The ceremony was fantastic! We were married at The Chapel of Love by a legit minister (so in case the American Family Association tells me that I'm not married in the eyes of God, I can assure them that we most certainly are). My dad, a retired Presbyterian minister, also participated by reading the homily and giving us words of encouragement. It was absolutely wonderful all around, and we had about 30 to 35 people from all over the country (including high school and college friends, relatives, and other good friends).
And then you also had a reception in Memphis a couple weeks back?
Paul: Yes. We decided because a lot of people couldn't make the trip to Minneapolis, we wanted to throw a party for our Memphis friends. The "reception-palooza," as Nate calls it, was August 3rd at the Robinson Gallery in South Main.
Does it feel different being married?
Paul: Not really, but a lot of that is because we've been together for so long. Ask us again around tax time, and we might have a different answer for you.
How did you get involved in this Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) Action?
Nathan: I started getting involved with the CSE earlier this year when they came to Mississippi to help fight the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (what I refer to as the "Keep Out the Gays" bill). I attended a couple of rallies down in Jackson and stayed in contact with them, even though the RFRA got signed into law. About a month ago, they reached out to me and asked if Paul and I would be interested in recording our marriage in DeSoto County, and it didn't take me two seconds to agree to participate.
Can you explain how you were able to record your marriage in Mississippi?
Nathan: We went to the Chancery Clerk's office at the DeSoto County courthouse and presented a "recording request," along with our marriage certificate, to the clerk's representative. Their office had apparently been apprised that someone would be doing this, so they were ready. There was a little conversation between the clerk's office employees, but then she came back, took my $20, gave me a receipt, and told us that the marriage certificate would be recorded that day.
Is that largely symbolic or does it come with any benefits?
Paul: It is mostly symbolic, but it makes a statement because now our marriage is entered into the public record. Although it's not "official" recognition, it's a way for us to tell Mississippi that gay married couples do in fact live here.
When do you expect we'll see same-sex marriage in Mississippi?
Nathan: I think Alabama and Mississippi will be fighting each other to see which one will be the last state to recognize same-sex marriage. But I'm continually encouraged by the string of court victories and, if the Supreme Court is ultimately forced to rule on it, I'm cautiously optimistic that they will strike down all the existing bans.