JACKSON, Miss. — Four lesbian couples pressed a federal judge on Friday to overturn Mississippi’s last-in-the-nation ban on allowing same-sex couples to adopt, but lawyers for the state argued the lawsuit should be tossed out.
Plaintiffs want U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan III to issue a preliminary injunction allowing members of two couples who don’t have parental rights to adopt their spouse’s children immediately. They say that after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage, there’s no need to wait for a full trial.
Roberta Kaplan, arguing for the plaintiffs, said Mississippi is still telling same-sex couples that “their marriages and families are not as good as the marriages and families of straight couples. And that’s directly contrary to what the Supreme Court said.”
Mississippi officials, though, argue the lawsuit is defective because the plaintiffs are suing state officials who have no power to order an adoption. And after the plaintiffs then sued four chancery judges who can order adoptions, the state argued that it’s improper for a federal court judge to issue a blanket order to a state judge when the plaintiffs haven’t even filed adoption actions.
“These plaintiffs and everybody else should be required to go to state court first,” said Justin Matheny, representing Attorney General Jim Hood. He also implied that the ban might not apply to one person who wants to adopt the child of their spouse, saying “there is an ambiguity about how it works,” and said anyone rejected by a chancery judge could appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Mississippi officials have not given up their defense of the law, with Matheny saying Friday that “I cannot and do not concede that the statute is unconstitutional.” However, later in the hearing, he was challenged by Jordan, with the judge saying his reading of the U.S. Supreme Court decision encompassed not only the right to marry, but connected benefits like adoption.