The Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum will now allow same-sex couples to hold commitment ceremonies and rent its facilities to hold such an event, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced Thursday.
The SPLC sent a letter on behalf of Ceara Sturgis and her same-sex partner Emily Key July 12 threatening to sue if officials didn't allow the couple to hold a commitment ceremony at the museum.
Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Cindy Hyde-Smith said in a statement Thursday:
"In late July, my office received a letter from Attorney General Hood advising that under Mississippi law, the application could not be refused. Based on my personal and religious beliefs, I strongly object to this, but I have no alternative, due to this advice, but to allow the processing of this permit to move forward. This process contains multiple steps and is currently not finalized."
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves also released a statement on the museum's decision Thursday:
"I am disappointed in the decision to allow a permit for same-sex marriage at a taxpayer-subsidized facility to be considered. Attorney General Hood's legal advice goes against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Mississippians."
The state-owned museum refused to allow a similar ceremony for two men in February. The museum cited a 2009 state attorney general's opinion that says it can prohibit the ceremonies because gay marriage is illegal in Mississippi.
Sturgis and Key plan to hold a ceremony at the museum's Masonic Hall in the fall, according to the SPLC.
The SPLC said in its statement the couple "would like to share this victory and their special day with the Jackson LGBT community and their allies. Those who would like to celebrate with them should send a request to Ashley Jackson at email@example.com."
In 2009, Sturgis was not allowed to have her senior portrait in the school yearbook because she wore a tuxedo. "I figured I've been going there for 13 years. They would put it in the yearbook, but I guess I was wrong," said Sturgis.
Her mother, Veronica Rodriguez, agreed with her daughter's decision to fight the action hand in hand with the ACLU.
"To hide how you express yourself is not being true to yourself," said Rodriguez.
They won that battle and now they've won another.
Copyright 2012 WLBT. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this story.
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