Mississippi Ban on Gay Adoptions Challenged

     (CN) – Four Mississippi couples are challenging the state’s 15-year-old ban on adoptions by same-sex couples, calling the one-sentence law a “significant deprivation” of their constitutional rights.
     Mississippi is the only state that has such a prohibition, it’s law reading simply, “Adoption by couples of the same gender is prohibited.”
     In a lawsuit filed in the Jackson, Miss. Federal Court on Wednesday, the plaintiffs say those nine words in the state’s statutory code “not only nullify, for gay people only, all of the factors otherwise considered relevant in ensuring that adoptions in Mississippi are performed in the best interests of the child, but blatantly discriminate against gay couple who are now legally married.”
     The lawsuit comes just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry, and was considered inevitable, according to legal observers in the state.
     The complaint itself suggests that while the ban denies same-sex couples the legal rights accorded to adoptive mixed-gender couples, many are living as families with children anyway. Citing statistics, from UCLA’s Williams Institute, the lawsuit says that in 2014, 29 percent of Mississippi same-sex households were raising children younger than 18 – the highest percentage of any state of the nation.
     “Despite these numbers, Mississippi is the last state that explicitly bans gay couples from adopting without regard for their qualifications as parents or the best interests of the child,” the plaintiffs say, and the policy has “profound and far-reaching” consequences for gay couples and their families.
     “The Mississippi Adoption Ban writes inequality into Mississippi law by requiring that married gay and lesbian couples and parents be treated differently than all other married couples in Mississippi, unequivocally barring them from adoption without regard to their circumstances,” the complaint says. “As a consequence, the equal dignity of hundreds of families and thousands of children in Mississippi is disrespected and the significant and concrete rights, benefits, and duties that come with legal parentage are denied.”
     “The question before this court is not what kind of family is best. That is not a question for this or any court to decide,” the plaintiffs say. “Rather, the question here is whether there is a legal basis for depriving many children in Mississippi of the protections and security of having two legal parents.”
     The plaintiffs seek declarative and injunctive relief of equal protection and due process claims.
     They are represented by Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, in New York; Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd in Jackson, Miss.; Meghann Burke of Brazil & Burke P.A. in Ashville, N.C.; and Dianne Herman Ellis of Oceans Springs, Miss.

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