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Supreme Court refuses appeal from allegedly abusive parents who lost custody of trans child

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by an Indiana couple that disputed the state’s right to remove their trans daughter from their custody.

Without comment, the court rejected the appeal from Mary and Jeremy Cox of Anderson, Indiana, who warned that more cases like theirs will find their way to the high court “due to developing conflicts between parents and their children concerning gender identity.”

According to Indiana’s Department of Child Services, self-described “devout Christian” Mary Cox called her daughter “the b***h that killed my son.”

In 2021, the Coxes’ daughter was removed from their home after multiple reports Mary Cox was verbally and emotionally abusing her daughter. The 16-year-old had developed an eating disorder, the state said, “fueled partly” by her parents’ response to her gender identity.

A judge ordered the teen be removed from her parents’ custody and treated for the eating disorder. All were ordered to participate in family therapy.

While the state dropped allegations of parental abuse, they argued the teen’s eating disorder could go untreated if she were returned to her parents’ custody.

Mary Cox had previously taken her daughter out of school and discontinued therapy addressing her gender dysphoria.

In testimony before the Indiana Senate two years later regarding a bill written to override the state’s ability to remove children in circumstances identical to the Coxes’ case, Mary Cox said she disagreed with the diagnosis of gender dysphoria her daughter received from multiple mental health professionals.

“The parents have the right to exercise their religious beliefs, but they do not have the right to exercise them in a manner that causes physical or emotional harm to [their] child,” the Indiana Court of Appeals wrote in October 2022, after the Coxes lost a case disputing the state’s actions.

Like the U.S. Supreme Court, the Indiana Supreme Court also declined to hear the Coxes’ case.

In a statement following the latest denial, Mary and Jeremy Cox called their child “our son”, and said losing custody because of their beliefs “will stay with us forever.”

“We can’t change the past, but we will continue to fight for a future where parents of faith can raise their children without fear of state officials knocking on their doors,” the Coxes said.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, who defended the Department of Child Services in the case, said he was “sympathetic” to the Coxes.

“We always protect parental rights and religious liberty. Neither we nor the Indiana courts believe that the State can remove a child because of a parent’s religious beliefs, views about gender identity, or anything of the sort.”  

In her public testimony before the Indiana legislature, Mary Cox said her daughter had cut off all contact with her after turning 18.

The bill inspired by her case, HB 1407, was never brought to a vote in the state Senate.

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