Paul Hampton

Looks like Rep. Andy Gipson had change of heart on divorce

Rep. Andy Gipson, who last week killed a bill that would have made domestic violence a ground for divorce, on Monday tried to make amends.

Gipson, R-Braxton, offered an amendment to SB 2680, in an attempt to define what the divorce statute “habitual cruel and inhuman treatment” entails. The amendment says that this could include abusive physical conduct, either threatened or attempted, or abusive non-physical conduct, including threats, intimidation, emotional or verbal abuse, according to a release from the House. The amendment passed on a voice vote.

The bill later passed the House 118-0, which means it will now go back to the Senate, which can either agree to the change, ask for a conference committee to try to work out difference in the House and Senate version, or let the bill die.

The measure, as amended, allows for divorce to be granted after the testimony of one or more credible witnesses, any of whom may be the victim.

“I am very pleased that the Mississippi House of Representatives has adopted a set of clear evidentiary guidelines on the important issue of domestic abuse divorce,” said Gipson via the press release. “These guidelines will provide real and immediate help to domestic violence victims, as well as assistance to judges statewide as they consider domestic abuse divorce cases.”

Gipson pointed out that the real problem was that precedent set in previous cases to protect victims of domestic violence was not being applied by courts in a consistent manner.

Gipson, as chairman of the Judiciary B Committee, last week killed a bill that would have added domestic violence as a ground for divorce. That was was written by Sen. Sally Doty and co-authored by Sens. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, Jennifer Branning, R-Philadelphia, and Gary Jackson, R-French Camp.

“If there’s a case of abuse that person needs to have change of behavior and a serious change of heart,” Gipson, who is also a Baptist minister, said at the time. “Hopefully even in those cases restoration can happen.”

He also said that since the state had habitual cruel and inhuman treatment ground that covered domestic violence.

Gipson gave credit to the Mississippi Center for Violence Prevention and Executive Director Sandy Middleton for their assistance in working with legislators toward this solution, as well as Speaker Gunn and the several House members who took an interest in working together to draft this amendment.

Middleton said she was shocked after Gipson killed the earlier bill.

Paul Hampton: 228-896-2330, @JPaulHampton