The federal courthouse in Jackson
The federal courthouse in Jackson Credit: U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services

A federal judge has struck down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex adoption.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III made the ruling late Thursday afternoon, stating that the state’s ban violates the equal-protection clause of the federal Constitution. Mississippi’s ban had been in effect since 2000.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who is representing the state in the case, applauded Jordan for dismissing Gov. Phil Bryant and Hood’s office from the suit. In a statement, Hood added:  “The District Court did direct the (Mississippi) Department of Human Services not to discriminate between same-sex and opposite-sex couples in adoption related services provided by that agency. 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, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said she wasn’t expecting a ruling today, but is pleased with the outcome.

“I’m a happy camper. Our clients are beyond happy campers. They are more than thrilled,” she told Mississippi Today.

The plaintiffs include Donna Phillips, Janet Smith, Kathryn Garner, Susan Hrostowski, Jessica Harbuck, Brittany Rowell, Tinora Sweeten-Lunsford, Kari Lunsford, The Campaign for Southern Equality and the Family Equality Council.

Couples sued in fall 2015 over Mississippi’s ban, the last in the nation against same-sex adoption, arguing that the law was an “outdated relic of a time when courts and legislatures believed that it was somehow okay to discriminate against gay people because they are gay.”

Further, the complaint cited two recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions that determine that “discrimination against children because their parents happen to be gay is blatantly unconstitutional.”

The ruling comes on the heels of the Mississippi Legislature’s passage of a bill allowing businesses to deny services to gay and lesbian people and circuit court clerks to refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on their religious convictions.

Kaplan said the two actions represent an interesting juxtaposition that suggests if the Mississippi bill, known formally as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” should become law, it would meet the same fate as the same-sex adoption ban.

“Even though I  get paid to go to court, I prefer not to go to court. Hopefully, people see the light,” she said.

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Ryan L. Nave, a native of University City, Mo., served as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief from May 2018 until April 2020. Ryan began his career with Mississippi Today February 2016 as an original member of the editorial team. He became news editor August 2016. Ryan has a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked for Illinois Times and served as news editor for the Jackson Free Press.