Mississippi's ban against gay couples adopting children is dead after the state didn't appeal a federal judge's injunction, said the lead counsel for plaintiffs.
Roberta Kaplan, attorney for the Campaign for Southern Equality, told Buzzfeed News the deadline passed without Mississippi filing an appeal of a federal judge banning enforcement of the state law.
Mississippi was the only state left in the nation banning same-sex couples from adopting without regard to their qualifications as parents or the best interests of the child, the group says.
The legal challenge case was filed on behalf of four same-sex couples: Kari Lunsford and Tinora Sweeten-Lunsford, who are seeking to adopt a child; Brittany Rowell and Jessica Harbuck, also seeking to adopt; Donna Phillips and Janet Smith, parents to a young daughter; and Kathryn Garner and Susan Hrostowski, who have a 15-year-old son. Two organizations — the Campaign for Southern Equality and Family Equality Council — have joined the case as plaintiffs representing LGBT families across Mississippi.
U.S. District Judge Dan Jordan issued the injunction March 31, saying the law violated the Constitution's equal protection clause as the result of last year's landmark Supreme Court ruling.
Sweeten-Lunsford testified during a hearing late last year that she and partner Lunsford always wanted to adopt. She said they tried to adopt about 10 years ago but were told that they didn't qualify.
Sweeten-Lunsford acknowledged the two weren't married at the time because the law wouldn't allow it. They married in 2013 in Seattle, Washington. The couple lives now in Columbus.
"We want to be treated like everyone else," Sweeten-Lunsford said.
Phillips became emotional on the witness stand when she testified how she wanted her partner to be on her child's birth certificate as a legal parent. Phillips is the biological mother of the child.
"I want Jan's name on the birth certificate and to have all the rights as I do as a parent," Phillips testified.
Phillips said she feared that if something happened to her, Smith could lose custody of the child.
But on cross examination by Assistant Attorney General Tommy Goodwin, who represents the Mississippi Department of Human Services, it was revealed that the couple hadn't filed an adoption petition.
Southern Equality initially filed the challenge against the executive branch, but later amended the complaint to add three chancery court districts.
Mississippi Assistant Attorney General Justin Matheny argued that the parties filing the lawsuit have no standing to do so because they have no cases where they have been denied the right to adopt.
"Notably absent from the amended complaint is a single allegation that any of the individual plaintiffs have filed adoption petitions in any of the defendant chancery districts," Matheny said in court papers."The plaintiffs lack the requisite adversity against the judicial branch defendants for purposes of establishing a case or controversy for purposes of standing."
Matheny said the Department of Human Services has said it won't stop same-sex couples from becoming foster parents. Additionally, he said DHS has no control over adoptions. He said a petition has to be filed in chancery court to start an adoption, and it's the decision of the chancery judge.