A deadline passed at midnight Tuesday for Mississippi officials to appeal a federal court ruling that found the state's law banning adoption by same-sex couples was unconstitutional. By failing to continue defending the law, it is effectively dead.
“Mississippi was the last state in the nation that prohibited adoption by gay couples, so in all 50 states, gay couples are allowed to adopt kids, as it should be,” Roberta Kaplan, lead lawyer in the case, told BuzzFeed News. “As far as the state is concerned, gay couples and their kids can't be treated differently than anyone else."
It is the latest judicial reverberation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that struck down state bans on same-sex couples’ marriages.
In March, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III granted a preliminary injunction that blocked the Mississippi's Department of Human Services from enforcing the adoption ban.
In his decision, Jordan cited the high court's ruling on marriage, writing, “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 adoption ban] violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.”
Susan Hrostowski, one of the plaintiffs in the case along with her wife, Kathryn Garner, told BuzzFeed News, "I've been waiting 16 years to be able to adopt my son, so I'm overjoyed about that."
The couple and son plan to see a judge Friday. "I'm hoping the judge will just do it right there," she said.
But not purely celebratory, Hrostowski was also frustrated that top state officials defended the ban so long, even after the Supreme Court's marriage ruling last June. She said the ban — like a Mississippi law that protects people with religious objections to same-sex marriage — was meant to distract from the state's poor economy and weakening infrastructure.
"They make the heterosexuals feel superior to the LGBT people, and then the public won't mind when they are dismantling the rest of the state," she said of the governor and legislative leaders.
She also took umbrage with religious arguments against gays and lesbians being used to justify the adoption ban. "A goodly number of Christians are tired of being painted with that brush, so we're standing up," said Hrostowski, who is also an Episcopal priest.
Kaplan, who also litigated the landmark case that resulted in the end of the Defense of Marriage Act, said that she and lawyers for the state may submit a formal request asking the court to convert March's preliminary injunction into a permanent injunction against enforcing the adoption ban.
The lawsuit was brought by the Campaign for Southern Equality and the Family Equality Council, along with several same-sex couples trying to adopt through the foster care system or private adoptions.
"There are a lot of children in the foster care system, and children in shelters, who need good, loving homes," said Hrostowski. "There are many gay and lesbians who could be their parents. Research has shown time and time again we make fine parents."