Mississippi State Capitol Building (Photo: Allstarecho, via Wikimedia Commons).
Lawyers representing two of four couples seeking to overturn Mississippi’s ban on same-sex adoption on Friday filed a preliminary injunction that seeks to allow their clients to adopt the children they are currently raising with their legally married spouses.
The Magnolia State is currently the only remaining state that still bans gay and lesbian couples from jointly adopting or allowing the non-biological parent to engage in a second-parent adoption. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the couples by the Family Equality Council and the Campaign for Southern Equality, seeks to overturn the ban and compel the state Department of Human Services to conduct a home study for the couples who wish to adopt, the first step in getting the adoption process rolling.
Two of the plaintiff couples are hoping to adopt from Mississippi’s foster care system, and two others are already raising children, but the non-biological parent isn’t recognized as a guardian by the state. The preliminary injunction deals with the latter two couples, arguing that the families are irreparably harmed each day that the adoption ban remains in place, and that there is no legal protection for the children should something happen to the biological parent.
“The Supreme Court has made it crystal clear that these Parent Plaintiffs have a due process and equal protection right under the U.S. Constitution to have status as legal parents to their own children,” the preliminary injunction reads. “Given this undeniable principle, as ‘has repeatedly been recognized by the federal courts at all levels[,] violation of constitutional rights constitutes irreparable harm as a matter of law.'”
“The ‘ what ifs’ are always there. What if something happens to me? What is something happens to Kathy?” says Susan Hrostowski, who has been with her wife, Kathy Garner, for 26 years and is jointly raising the couple’s 15-year-old son. “Our son has had two parents for 15 years and only one of us has the rights and responsibilities that other two-parent families take for granted. We chose to have a child, are blessed to have a child, and it is fundamentally unfair for us to be married in all 50 states and territories, but not for the three of us to be considered a family when marriage and family are intricately interwoven.”
“All families should be treated with equal dignity and respect,” says Donna Phillips, who is raising her eight-year-old daughter with her spouse Janet Smith. “We simply want what is best for our child. Every day, both of us try our best to take care of our daughter and make decisions that she, as a child, cannot. Most of all, we want her to know that we are a ‘true family’ equal to any other.”
The lead counsel for the plaintiffs is Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer who represented Edith Windsor in the landmark case U.S. v. Windsor, which struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Also representing the plaintiffs is Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, the law firm that filed the case that eventually ruled that Mississippi’s statewide ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
“There is no question that Donna and Jan and their daughter, and Kathy and Susan and their son, are being injured every day that the Mississippi Adoption Ban stands between them and full legal recognition of their families,” Kaplan said in a statement. “There is no possible reason that would justify their kids having only one legal parent instead of two. This motion asks the Court to grant them immediate relief so they don’t have to wait any longer.”