Miss. adoption ban for same-sex couples blocked

Posted at 7:58 AM, Apr 01, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal judge has overturned Mississippi's ban on allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan, in a preliminary injunction issued Thursday, ruled for the couples who had sued, saying the ban is unconstitutional after recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions legalizing gay marriage and benefits for gay couples. He ordered John Davis, executive director of the Department of Human Services to stop enforcing it.

"I am overwhelmed with joy," Hattiesburg resident Kathy Garner said. She and wife Susan Hrostowski sued to allow Hrostowski to adopt 16-year-old Hudson Garner. "For us, this has been a long time in the making."

Garner said the couple had contacted their local lawyer and planned to file adoption papers in Forrest County Chancery Court as early as Friday. Hudson, who wrote a first-person account of a Nov. 6 hearing, was more understated Thursday.

"He had a typical 16-year-old response," Kathy Garner said. "He said 'Cool.' Then he said congratulations. Then he said he was going to take a nap."

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

"It also 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 wrote.

Rachel Ring, a spokeswoman for Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood noted that Jordan dismissed a number of defendants in the case.

"The district court did direct the Department of Human Services not to discriminate between same-sex and opposite-sex couples in adoption related services provided by that agency," Ring wrote in an email. "We respect the district court's analysis of the law and will consult with the Department of Human Services on what options to take going forward."

Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, expressed confidence that any appeal would be fruitless.

"The ban is effectively over," she told The Associated Press by telephone. "DHS will have a very, very hard time convincing a judge on appeal."

The couples were backed by the Campaign for Southern Equality and the Family Equality Council.

Progress for gay rights in Mississippi after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision has been mixed. There have been no reports of clerks refusing marriage licenses, and the state Supreme Court ruled that two women married elsewhere could get a divorce in Mississippi. But the Legislature is considering a bill that would allow government employees and some private business people to cite their own religious objections to same-sex marriage to deny services to gay or lesbian couples.

The University of California, Los Angeles, found in 2014 that 996 same-sex couples were raising 1,401 children in Mississippi. Census data from 2010 showed that 29 percent of same-sex couples had children at home, the largest share of same-sex households in any state.

Mississippi lawmakers banned adoptions by same-sex couples in 2000. Then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed the ban said last year he regretted the action.