JACKSON, Miss. — A federal judge nominated to the bench by then-President George W. Bush has struck down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex adoption, the last remaining ban of its kind in the nation.
U.S. District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III granted a preliminary injunction against the ban on Thursday, opining that it “obviously targets married gay couples and limits their rights,” and that it violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. He cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex “marriage” in drawing his conclusion.
“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,” Jordan wrote.
Mississippi’s Domestic Relations Code outlines that “[a]doption by couples of the same gender is prohibited.” The Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) also doesn’t include “sexual orientation” in its non-discrimination policy pertaining to adoption.
The law had been challenged last year by four homosexual twosomes: two of whom were seeking to adopt, and another two who desired to add their partner to their biological child’s birth certificate.
“In 2015, there can be no question that it is unconstitutional for Mississippi to bar gay couples from adopting for no reason other than that they happen to be gay,” attorney Roberta Kaplan told reporters. “We are very hopeful we will get the order we want.”
Mississippi Assistant Attorney General Justin Matheny had argued in court that the plaintiffs had no standing to sue since they had not proven that they had been refused in seeking to adopt. He also said that DHS, which was a defendant in the case, doesn’t have control over adoptions, as the request must be filed in chancery court.
But Jordan rejected the argument, stating that since DHS has a hand in state adoptions they could not be dismissed from the case.
“Indeed, defendants have argued correctly that DHS has no statutory authority to grant or deny an adoption. But ‘[t]his wrongly equates injury ‘fairly traceable’ to the defendant with injury as to which the defendant’s actions are the very last step in the chain of causation,'” he wrote. “Here, DHS has submitted an affidavit verifying that it is charged with responsibilities affecting the adoption process.”
“The majority of the United States Supreme Court dictates the law of the land, and lower courts are bound to follow it. In this case, that means that [the pertinent section of the Domestic Relations Code] violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution,” Jordan said.
On Friday, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed a religious freedom bill, H.B. 1523, which provides protections to pastors and businesses who object to same-sex “marriage” and prohibits punishment by the state. The bill had passed the Senate just days prior and now heads to the desk of Gov. Phil Bryant, who had not yet indicated whether or not he will sign the legislation into law.
He has hinted, however, that he doesn’t find the measure to be discriminatory.
“I think it gives some people, as I appreciate it, the right to be able to say that’s against my religious beliefs and I don’t need to carry out that particular task,” Bryan told local television station WLBT.
Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves has expressed his support for the bill.
“In the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, many Mississippians, including pastors, wanted protection to exercise their religious liberties,” he sad in a statement on Wednesday. “This bill simply protects those individuals from government interference when practicing their religious beliefs.”