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Eddie wasn’t going to tell his family he was gay. Ever. He grew up thinking that he was the only gay person in the Delta. So, his first instinct was to “butch it up” and never tell his family in order to not embarrass them. Despite his effort to hide his identity, Eddie’s parents accidentally found out that he was dating a man. “I thought I knew what my father would do,” he says. But Eddie was surprised when his dad sat down with him and tried to understand how Eddie felt. Eddie met Justin, his partner, at a salon in their Deep South hometown and began dating soon after. The couple now owns a salon together and are joint partners. Eddie and Justin realized that they were “as close to married as anybody can be,” but cannot be legally married in Mississippi. Instead of their hometown, they decided to be legally united in California (where Justin’s family lives). Eddie calls his wedding day “probably the best day of [his] life.”
“Mississippi Love Story” is a short film produced by Sewanee graduate Robbie Fisher (C’86), following the lives of a gay couple, Eddie and Justin, in Mississippi during the Supreme Court ruling of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. DOMA, enacted in 1996, allowed states to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to recognize marriages legally granted in other states. In 2013, DOMA was declared unconstitutional.
Fisher wanted to give a face to the issue in Mississippi, but also acknowledges that the problem of inequality goes beyond same-sex marriages. There has recently been a shift in acceptance, but there are still no laws to protect LGBTQ+ residents from losing their jobs or being evicted from their apartments for being queer. The short film ends with the following statement: “The state of Mississippi still does not recognize Eddie and Justin’s marriage.” Fisher is waiting for the day when she will be able to change the film’s ending. This month, an oral argument to be given in Supreme Court challenging states’ bans on same-sex marriage will hopefully lead to Mississippi recognizing Eddie and Justin’s marriage and allow them to receive full marriage benefits.
“Mississippi Love Story” has been screened around the country and internationally in Bosnia. The film was screened at the Crossroads Film Festival and won Best Mississippi Documentary in Oxford. It is available online to rent ($1.00) or buy ($2.50) on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/mslovestory).