Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Judge Blocks Miss. Ban |on Same-Sex Adoption

(CN) - A federal judge struck down Mississippi's ban on same-sex couples adopting children, finding it inconsistent with the Supreme Court's ruling affirming the right to gay marriage.

The ruling stems from an evidentiary hearing held in November in the case of a Hattiesburg couple, Kathy Garner and Susan Hrostowski.

Garner and Hrostowski had been a couple for years when they decided they wanted to a child. Garner gave birth to a baby boy in 2000, fully expecting Hrostowski would be able to legally adopt him.

But Mississippi said no, holding such an arrangement violated a ban on adoptions by same-sex couples that went into effect just weeks before the baby was born.

After the couple sued, they were joined in the litigation by three other same-sex couples, the Campaign for Southern Equality and the Family Equality Council.

On Thursday, U.S. District ordered John Davis, executive director of the state's Judge Daniel Jordan Department of Human Services to stop enforcing it.

Jordan wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing gay marriage included other benefits associated with marriage, such as adoption.

"Obergefell held that bans on gay marriage violate the due-process and equal-protection clauses," Judge Jordan wrote. "It is the equal-protection component of the opinion that is relevant in the present dispute over Mississippi's ban on gay adoptions."

Jordan held that the equal-protection analysis the majority applied in Obergefell evidenced its "intent for sweeping change."

Not only does the majority's opinion address marriage itself, but also "the benefits of marriage, noting that marriage and those varied rights associated with it are recognized as a 'unified whole,'" the judge wrote.

"And it further states that "the marriage laws enforced by the respondents are in essence unequal: same-sex couples are denied all the benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right," he said.

Jordan said given the majority's stance in Obergefell "It ... seems highly unlikely that the same court that held a state cannot ban gay marriage because it would deny benefits - expressly including the right to adopt would then conclude that married gay couples can be denied that very same benefit."

He concluded, "The majority of the United States Supreme Court dictates the law of the land, and lower courts are bound to follow it. In this case, that means that section 93-17-3(5) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution."

Roberta Kaplan, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said "We are thrilled with today's ruling, but our clients are beyond ecstatic."

"That is exactly as it should be," she added

A spokeswoman for Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said the state respects the court's analysis of the law and that no decision has been made on a possible appeal.

CNS reporter Erik De La Garza contributed to this report.

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