Justice

A Federal Judge Just Announced a Huge Victory for LGBT Families Everywhere

April 1st 2016

By:
Lucy Tiven

On Thursday, a federal judge overturned a Mississippi law that denied same-sex couples the right to adopt children, the Huffington Post reported. The decision may be the most significant legal victory for the LGBT community since the U.S. Supreme court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states in July 2015.

Mississippi's ban—the last of its kind—came into effect in 2000, and was deemed unconstitutional on Thursday, making it legal for gay couples to adopt children in every U.S. state.

“In a way, I think there’s something refreshing about the clarity of what Judge Jordan had to say,” Roberta Kaplan, the plaintiffs' attorney told Slate. “It really doesn’t matter how you get there or what scrutiny you apply. The one thing that’s crystal clear is that states can’t do this anymore.”

Rob Hill, the Human Rights Campaign’s Mississippi state director, applauded the decision in a statement reported by the Huffington Post and elsewhere.

“This welcome decision affirms that qualified same-sex couples in Mississippi seeking to become adoptive or foster parents are entitled to equal treatment under the law, and commits to the well-being of children in our state who need loving homes,” he said. “Judge Jordan has repudiated reprehensible efforts by our elected leaders to deny legal rights to our families. They are on the wrong side of history, and today’s decision confirms, yet again, that they are also on the wrong side of the law.”

The lawsuit was filed by four same-sex couples and was backed by the Campaign for Southern Equality and the Family Equality Council, NPR reported.

At the time of the filing, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood attempted to defend the ban on procedural grounds, a move that many suggested there were no substantial arguments left. Think Progress wrote at the time: 

In what may be a nod to the fact that his legal arguments on the merits are weak, Hood devotes much of his legal filing to procedural objections to this suit — arguing, for example, that the plaintiffs sued the wrong state officials, and that they failed to jump through certain state-level procedural hoops before bringing this lawsuit.

The suit involved parents with children of disparate ages, as well as couples who wished to adopt, according to a 2015 report in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:

"Kari Lunsford and Tinora Sweeten-Lunsford, who are seeking to adopt a child; Brittany Rowell and Jessica Harbuck, also seeking to adopt; Donna Phillips and Janet Smith, parents to a young daughter; and Kathryn Garner and Susan Hrostowski, who have a 15-year-old son."

“Two sets of our clients have waited many (almost 9 and 16) years to become legal parents to the children they have loved and cared for since birth,” Kaplan said, in a statement reported by the Huffington Post. “We hope that it should finally be clear that discrimination against gay people simply because they are gay violates the Constitution in all 50 states, including Mississippi.”

Alabama, Alabama, Florida, Nebraska and Michigan also overturned bans on same-sex adoption in recent years.

The decision is a huge win for gay and lesbian families, as well as those who wish to adopt, or may wish to adopt in the future.

[H/T HuffPo]