Transgender couple legally marries in Mississippi
JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - A transgender couple was legally married in Mississippi on September 18, which caused controversy around the state.
Nick Fulgham and Jessica Elliot married on September 18 at the Madison County Courthouse. Nick, who was originally a female named Natalie, began his transition from female to male in 2010. He was legally declared a male in Starkville, Mississippi on July 11, 2014.
According to Dale Thompson, Circuit Court Clerk for Desoto County, Nick and Jessica both showed valid ID in compliance with state statute. Thompson said she was given both a valid male's and female's identification. According to Thompson, she issued the couple a valid, legal marriage license.
The couple's marriage sparked controversy with the American Family Association. In an article posted on afa.net, the couple was accused of committing "biological fraud."
According to the AFA article,"Two lesbians getting married could not possibly be more illegal and unconstitutional anywhere in the United States than in Mississippi."
However, according to Shawn Lowrey, an attorney for the Erik M. Lowrey law firm in Hattiesburg, the couple has not committed a criminal act.
"Somewhere, somebody allowed them to change a birth certificate or license legally," said Lowrey. "There is no constitutional amendment or law in Mississippi that doesn't allow them to do that."
According to Lowrey, getting a sex change is not illegal in Mississippi, and the only way Nick and Jessica could have legal action taken against their marriage is if they were to divorce.
"You have to have a standing to argue that these two people aren't married, and the only people that can do that are these two people," said Lowrey. "Anyone else has no standing, no law and no statute have been broken. The only reason to bring their marriage validity up is if they decide to get a divorce and someone takes the position that they weren't properly married."
According to Lowrey, the marriage does bring to light how the state recognizes transgender gay couples.
"What they have done is in gray space, but they definitely haven't done anything criminal," said Lowrey. "They were honest, they went before a judge, changed sexes, and the constitutional amendment says they can't marry the same sex, but nothing that says they can't have a sex change. "
Lowrey also said that the stance the AFA takes with biological fraud, from a legal perspective, will not hold water.
"Unless a new constitutional amendment is made making sex changes illegal, there is no statute or Supreme Court case to compare this to," said Lowrey. "What they have done is not illegal."
Jessica said when she and Nick got married, she never thought her marriage would cause this type of controversy.
"We made it five business days, and by that Tuesday that's when we saw the first post on Facebook," said Jessica. "As a couple, we talked about it and we both knew we took every legal step possible."
Jessica said that she and Nick do not focus on the negative, and are leaning on each other in this situation.
"He was my best friend from the get-go," said Jessica. "We have always been there for each other no matter what happens."
Jessica said that although the attention to her marriage has been hard, she and Nick still had the perfect wedding, and there has been more support for their marriage than they ever thought.
"Everyone has been fantastic," said Jessica. "Nick and I love and stand behind each other and will do whatever we have to so that we ensure our rights and prove we did everything legally. We aren't second class citizens; we are people just like everyone else."