A federal judge struck down Mississippi's ban on adoption by same-sex couples Thursday — making the practice legal nationwide.
"We are obviously thrilled with today's ruling, but our clients are beyond ecstatic," said Roberta Kaplan, lead attorney in the case for the Campaign for Southern Equality, a North Carolina-based activist group, which represented four Mississippi couples in the suit along with the Massachusetts-based Family Equality Council.
"Two sets of our clients have waited many (almost 9 and 16) years to become legal parents to the children they have loved and cared for since birth," Kaplan said. "We hope that it should finally be clear that discrimination against gay people simply because they are gay violates the Constitution in all 50 states, including Mississippi."
U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan derided the state's lawyers for offering what he called a "tepid" defense of the 2000 statute, criticizing them for not even trying to justify the legality of the law.
Instead, they argued that the gay and lesbian rights groups didn't have legal standing to sue — and said they wouldn't have enforced the law anyway.
Mississippi was the last state to have such a ban on the books after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision last year legalizing same-sex marriage.
Jordan said in a 28-page ruling filed Thursday in Jackson that the high court decision included equal protection provisions that applied to adoption by same-sex parents, as well.
"While it may be hard to discern a precise test, the Court extended its holding to marriage-related benefits — which includes the right to adopt," he wrote.
Susan Hrostowski, one of the original plaintiffs, said she was "overwhelmed."
"Our son just turned 16 on Easter Sunday and is going to get his driver's license tomorrow," Hrostowski said. "For us, the feeling and the way we have operated as a family have never been impacted by this law. But to have this ruling and to be able to start the adoption proceedings tomorrow means everything to me."