Roberta Kaplan, the lead counsel in the Windsor v. U.S. case that defeated the federal Defense of Marriage Act, is fighting Mississippi’s same-sex adoption ban in U.S. District Court.
Photo by Imani Khayyam.
We were told not no, but hell no," Donna Phillips said of the chances of her partner adopting their daughter after the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling legalized same-sex marriage nationally. Phillips is one of the plaintiffs in the case challenging Mississippi's adoption ban before the southern Mississippi U.S. district court.
No defendant wants to take responsibility for Mississippi's same-sex adoption ban. On Nov. 6, several witnesses took the stand in a federal courtroom for the first hearing in four Mississippi same-sex couples' challenge to the state's adoption ban.
Lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, Roberta "Robbie" Kaplan, said she cannot recall hearing such consistent testimony from witnesses over and over again.
Kaplan called to the stand members of three of the same-sex couples who are plaintiffs in the case to share their stories of discrimination or difficulties in adopting their own children in the state.
"Ultimately, we win these cases because people tell their stories, and I can't think of a better way for them to tell their stories," Kaplan told the Jackson Free Press.
The case, Campaign for Southern Equality v. MDHS, challenges the statute in Mississippi's constitution that bans same-sex couples from adopting children in the state.
Kaplan said that by the end of the hearing it was clear that the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services was responsible for upholding the ban because that department conducts home studies for prospective adoptive parents and regulates foster-care practices.
"MDHS needs to clarify for everyone in Mississippi, so it's not a guessing game, and there's no confusion that gay couples are now fully entitled to adopt in Mississippi despite the language of the statute," Kaplan said.
Two of the couples who are plaintiffs in the case want the adoption ban lifted so that both parents can finally and officially become the legal parent of children they are already raising. Other couples want to adopt children, but have been held up because private social work groups will not conduct home studies for fear of retaliation from MDHS for disregarding the adoption ban.
Kaplan said she believes that Judge Daniel P. Jordan III, who heard the case, understood MDHS' role in the adoption process. If MDHS is forced to clarify in its department that same-sex adoption is allowed and that companies who conduct home studies won't be punished for conducting them in same-sex family households, she said, her plaintiffs and other same-sex couples in the state will be able to adopt without problems.
"If that's the way this ends up, we won't have any issues," Kaplan said.
Judge Jordan had not handed down an opinion in this case by press time.
Comment at jfp.ms/lgbt. Email Arielle Dreher at [email protected]