The U.S. Supreme Court brought gay marriage to Mississippi this year. Now it’s looking increasingly likely that a federal judge could be called on to decide if gay couples can adopt children in the state too.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of four same-sex couples in August is attempting to overturn a Mississippi law blocking them from adopting children, the only ban of its kind in the nation. Mississippi’s Republican governor and Democratic attorney general, both of whom are named as defendants in the lawsuit, aren’t backing down. They’re fighting the lawsuit despite clear signal that courts will ultimately declare it unconstitutional.
Mississippi will inevitably be on the losing end of the fight, just as it and many other states were when it came to gay marriage.
The Mississippi Adoption Ban, as the law is officially called, “writes inequality into Mississippi law” by treating gay couples and parents different than other married couples in the state, the complaint says.
The response from the state filed in September primarily argues that the lawsuit shouldn’t be heard because the officials being sued aren’t responsible for granting adoptions. Later it claims that applying same-sex marriage cases to an adoption ban would be “over-extending” the marriage cases.
The Mississippi couples have a top LGBT legal advocate on their side. Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer handling the challenge, successfully argued before the Supreme Court in another milestone marriage case, United States v. Windsor. That decision from 2013 invalidated a key section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and an important precursor to the gay marriage ruling two years later.
Kaplan has said that following those two decisions, the Mississippi adoption ban is clearly unconstitutional. In a recent interview she said the arguments coming from the other side, so far, just don’t make sense.
“So, most of their defenses right now are not really marriage defenses, they’re procedural defenses,” she said. “And when we get to the point where they have marriage defenses, I don’t think they’re going to have very much to say.”
Legal experts tended to agree, saying courts will likely define the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling in broad ways that block other forms of discrimination against gays and lesbians.
We may know soon whether a judge sees the state’s claims as bogus. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Nov. 6.