A federal judge on Thursday struck down Mississippi’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples, saying it “violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.”
U.S. District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III ruled that the Mississippi Department of Human Services can no longer enforce the ban, enacted in 2000, the Associated Press reports.
Mississippi was the last U.S. state to have such a ban, according to a press release from the Family Equality Council and the Campaign for Southern Equality, which had joined four same-sex couples in the lawsuit against the ban.
The lead attorney for the plaintiffs was Roberta Kaplan. She is the attorney who won Windsor v. U.S., the 2013 Supreme Court decision that brought down a significant portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.
In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III cited another Supreme Court decision, last year’s ruling regarding marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges. “In sum,” he opined, “the majority opinion foreclosed litigation over laws interfering with the right to marry and ‘rights and responsibilities intertwined with marriage.’ … 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.”
Because the Supreme Court sets the law of the land and lower courts are obligated to follow it, Jordan wrote, he had to conclude that the ban is unconstitutional.
“Two sets of our clients have waited many (almost 9 and 16) years to become legal parents to the children they have loved and cared for since birth. We hope that it should finally be clear that discrimination against gay people simply because they are gay violates the Constitution in all 50 states, including Mississippi,” Kaplan said in her press release.
The ruling comes as the state is about to enact a law that would that would give businesses, individuals, nonprofits, and even government employees permission to discriminate against LGBT people, with impunity, by citing sincerely held religious or moral beliefs. The Mississippi Senate approved the bill two days ago and sent it back to the House, which had passed a somewhat different version in February. If the House agrees with the version approved by the Senate, in a vote expected next week, the bill will go to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature or veto. Bryant has not said what action he will take, but he has made positive comments about the bill’s intent.