U.S. News

Museum ban on same-sex weddings lifted in Mississippi

TUPELO, Mississippi (Reuters) - A state-owned museum in Mississippi reversed its ban on same-sex couples renting the building for weddings, sparking condemnation from Republican Governor Phil Bryant who called the decision “disappointing.”

The state had come under pressure from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which in July threatened to sue if the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum continued to refuse same-sex weddings.

The center became involved after the museum denied an application from Emily Key and her partner Ceara Sturgis, who want to wed there this fall.

State Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith issued a statement saying she had sought advice from Attorney General Jim Hood, who told her the law does not allow her to refuse the couple’s application.

She said she personally believes marriage is between a man and a woman, and that state law isn’t clear about what is or isn’t allowed on state property.

She urged the legislature to address that issue when it reconvenes in January.

In a statement, Bryant cited a 2004 vote when 86 percent of Mississippi voters approved an amendment banning same-sex marriage. “I stand with the will of the people,” he said.

Editing by David Adams and Todd Eastham