Local attorney drops out of circuit clerk race

HATTIESBURG, Miss – Since the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, several court clerks have resigned their positions, citing their religious beliefs.

Up until last week, the Jones County circuit clerk had not issued a same-sex marriage license.

Jay Jernigan, a Hattiesburg attorney, says he withdrew his name from a local ballot because of his religious beliefs, “I had been praying about it anyway, what I would do if I got elected.”

Attorney Jernigan says it wasn’t easy to walk away but it boiled down to personal beliefs, “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Jernigan.

Until recently, Jernigan was a candidate for the Lamar County Circuit Clerk. Jernigan had been campaigning for the Circuit Clerk position for the last 5 months. Last week, he sent a letter to the Lamar County Republican Committee, formerly withdrawing his name from the ballot.

He said the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage led him to change his mind, “I’m not judging anybody or being critical of gay people. It’s just not my position to judge. However, it is my position and personal beliefs that I don’t believe in same-sex marriage and the allowing of it by the states or the federal government.”

Jernigan said if elected, he would’ve had a duty to himself and those who elected him to follow the law. He said so far, his decision has been well received, “I would say 99 percent understood and encouraged me and stand thank you for standing up for your beliefs. And I think we’ve gotten into a society today, people don’t stand up for their beliefs anymore.”

Jernigan has been practicing law for 36 years and has worked with gay clients. He thinks most of his business is based on his reputation as an aggressive attorney. However, he said his personal stance could be received either way in the public’s eyes, “Other people that aren’t gay may come to me because of this position and others may come to me because of this position. It’s a personal belief and whatever happens, happens.”

The Hattiesburg attorney said no person is free of sin, “Is homosexuality a sin? Of course it is. Is it any greater sin than my sin? No, it’s not any greater. All sin is sin regardless. However, the bible does speak clearly to the fact that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Jernigan explains, “I just believe in what God directs me to do and if I can’t stand up for what He directs me to do; then what would I be, nothing.”

Below is the letter used by Jernigan to withdraw from the Circuit Clerk race:

Lamar County Republican Committee

Dear Committee members:

In light of the recent U.S Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage, it is with regret that I withdraw my candidacy for Lamar County Circuit Clerk. While it is the duty of the office of the Circuit Clerk to issue all marriage licenses, it is against my personal religious beliefs. However, I greatly appreciate the opportunity the Republican Party has afforded me in my brief run for office, and will look at future races where I may be more effective for the party, my family and this Country.
s/Jay L. Jernigan
Jay L. Jernigan

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