Last week, the state—via the Democratic-led Mississippi attorney general's office—again stood on the wrong side of a federal judge in an individual-rights case, this time defending Mississippi's constitutional ban on same-sex adoption while also trying to duck responsibility for enforcing that same-sex adoption ban.
Again, attorneys for same-sex couples looking to adopt had to argue that they have just as much right and are just as capable of creating loving, supportive environments in which to raise children. This time, these couples believe they have additional ammunition: the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges earlier this year striking down same-sex marriage bans, including Mississippi's.
Attorneys for the state argued in court last week that the attorney general, the governor and the Mississippi Department of Human Services are not responsible for granting adoptions and that couples should sue local chancery court clerks who deny their adoption rights.
Now, follow this argument from the state's lawyers: Mississippi's ban on same-sex adoption says that only couples—made up of members of different sexes—can adopt but does not explicitly mention marriage. Therefore, says the AG's office, the Obergefell ruling, because it speaks only to the right of couples to wed, doesn't legally change the standing of same-sex adults in the state.
Now, even though you have the right to legally marry in the state of Mississippi, you still don't have the right to adopt a child.
This isn't the only destined-to-fail suit that the attorney general is spending time and money defending. Before the same-sex adoption charade, a lawsuit over Mississippi's same-sex marriage ban made it all the way to a federal appeals court and likely would have wound up at the U.S. Supreme Court had it not already had enough pending cases to rule on the issue.
Similarly, the state's abortion-clinic admitting-privileges lawsuit is currently awaiting U.S. Supreme Court review even though lower courts have ruled that the law is an overreach that would shut down Mississippi's only abortion clinic and therefore deny women their right to legal and safe abortions.
These suits are costly, time-consuming and embarrassing. It's time for the attorney general to move on from defending them and instead start working toward progress for all the state's citizens.
If it takes months or years, history has shown us that Mississippi's same-sex adoption ban will ultimately meet defeat. As lawmakers continue to harp about the need for fiscal restraint (the stated underlying reason for Republican leaders' opposition to full public-education funding and Medicaid expansion), our leaders should start by putting aside these political wedge issues that tie up the courts, spend the taxpayers' money, and put the lives of tax-paying citizens in the balance.
It's time to get out of people's private lives and work on the important stuff.