Mississippi’s Republican governor and Democratic attorney general are asking a federal judge to uphold the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The state made the request in court papers Monday, responding to a lawsuit filed Oct. 20 in U.S. District Court in Jackson by two lesbian couples and a gay-rights group, Campaign for Southern Equality.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn the ban, saying Mississippi violates constitutional rights of gays and lesbians and denies same-sex couples the “rights, benefits and duties that automatically come with marriage.”

Gov. Phil Bryant and Attorney General Jim Hood responded that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases from Mississippi and two other states, has not recognized gays and lesbians as a group with specific civil-rights protections. Because of that, there is no reason for a federal district judge to give “heightened scrutiny” to claims of bias.

“Mississippi’s traditional marriage laws do not discriminate,” Bryant and Hood said in court papers Monday.

In November 2004, Mississippi voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being only between one man and one woman.

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