Lawsuit filed against Mississippi adoption ban


Attorney Robbie Kaplan

Mississippi is the last state that has a ban on same-sex couples adopting.

Attorney Robbie Kaplan, who represented Edie Windsor in her fight against the Defense of Marriage Act and represented Mississippi couples in their fight against their state’s marriage ban, filed the lawsuit.

“We like to finish what we started,” Kaplan tweeted.

On its website, the Campaign for Southern Equality wrote:

The case, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Mississippi Department of Human Services, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi 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 — join the case as plaintiffs representing the LGBT families across Mississippi.

—  David Taffet

Florida Senate votes to repeal gay adoption ban

Screen shot 2015-04-14 at 12.54.40 PM

Sen. Don Gaetz

Although Florida’s ban on adoptions by same-sex couples has been officially lifted since 2010, the law remains on the books, so to speak, since lawmakers never actually repealed it. That changed today (Tuesday, April 14).

The Florida Senate today gave final approval to a bill primarily intended to help more foster children find permanent homes, but which also removes the ban on adoption by same-sex couples.

Nadine Smith, chief executive of Equality Florida praised the bipartisan vote as a “symbolic action [that will] finally move our state past its Anita Bryant era of discrimination and intolerance.

Smith said that former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Destin, helped clinch the deal with his “eloquent” arguments urging lawmakers not to be swayed by arguments that the bill might go against the religious principles of some private, taxpayer-supported adoption agencies.

Gaetz, a Lutheran, pointed out that his denomination, which does not discriminate against same-sex couples as prospective adoptive parents, placed 183 children in adoptive homes last year. That’s “more than three times as many” adopted through the Lutheran agencies as through the Baptist and Catholic agencies that refuse to place children with same-sex couples. “So I ask you today to follow the law,” Gaetz said. “Follow the law that says we don’t discriminate. Follow the law that says we’re going to give these [children waiting for adoption] the best chance we can.”

Watch Gaetz’s closing arguments below.

The bill has already been approved by the House of Representatives and now goes to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.

The ban dates back to 1977 when right-wing singer Anita Bryant launched her “Save Our Children” campaign. It survived several court challenges and even was upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004. It was overturned in 2010 when a state appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that the ban violated the Florida state constitution, and the governor and attorney general chose not to appeal further.

—  Tammye Nash

Florida House committee approves anti-LGBT adoption bill

Even as the Indiana Legislature begins consideration of an amendment to its recently approved Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would bar discrimination by private businesses based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity, Equality Florida is reporting that anti-gay legislation is making headway in the Sunshine State.

You’d think that the massive backlash over Indiana’s anti-gay RFRA that has sent lawmakers there scrambling into damage control mode and convinced Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to change his mind about signing a similar bill in his state might make lawmakers elsewhere think twice, too.

But not in Florida, apparently. They ain’t gonna be skeered off in Florida.

According to an Equality Florida press statement released this afternoon (Thursday, April 2), the Florida House Judiciary Committee has Screen shot 2015-04-02 at 4.13.50 PMpassed an adoption bill that would allow discrimination against prospective LGBT parents “and places childrebn seeking a permanent home at continued risk.”

“This is Indiana-style legalized discrimination, plain and simple,” Equality Florida Public Policy Specialist Carlos Guillermo Smith declared in the statement. “But it’s even worse because this promotes state-sanctioned and taxpayer-funded discrimination.”

Smith, saying that lawmakers know the bill is “as indefensible as it is unnecessary,” said the new measure would allow any private adoption agency — either secular or religious — to discriminate against prospective parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity, family status and religious or political beliefs.

“One of the cruelest measures embedded in the bill would allow agencies to refuse to place foster children with members of their extended families based on their marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion,” the Equality Florida statement says. “A loving, unmarried grandparent, for example, or a stable, welcoming relative of a different faith could be deemed unsuitable under the proposed law.”

Smith noted that Florida already has an Religious Freedom Restoration Act in place that allows faith-based organizations to factor in religious beliefs when offering adoption and other services. The new bill, he added, “strips prospective parents of legal recourse if they’ve been discriminated against, and prohibits the state from withholding taxpayer money from discriminatory agencies.”

Ellen Kahn, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Children, Youth and Families Program, also condemned in the new bill, saying it “flies in the face of our responsibility to find permanent families and safe, loving homes for every child.”


—  Tammye Nash

Florida House votes to remove gay and lesbian adoption ban

Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Florida was one of the few places that has an outright ban on adoption by gays and lesbians. Now the Florida House has passed a bill to remove that language, which was added in 1977, according to Associated Press.

The ban on gay and lesbian adoption was declared unconstitutional five years ago, and gays and lesbians have been allowed to adopt since then. This would simply clean up the state law, although the legislature had been reluctant to do so in the past.

No Republicans spoke against the amendment, although some voted against it. Some said they didn’t support adoption by gays and lesbians, but were voting for the amendment so the law reflected court rulings and policy.

In Texas, the state sodomy law has been unconstitutional since the 2003 Lawrence v Texas decision. Each legislative session since then, a bill to remove language that has been declared unconstitutional has failed to pass the Texas Legislature, so the law doesn’t reflect actual policy or court rulings.

People have been detained based on the unconstitutional law since then.

In the case of unconstitutional laws remaining on the books, misreading the Florida adoption law could delay an adoption and increase costs for no reason other than bigotry against those trying to adopt.

The bill still has to pass the Florida Senate and be signed by anti-gay Gov. Rick Scott.

—  David Taffet

Legislators file joint adoption bills for LGBT parents

Anchia.RafaelRep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, filed companion bills today (Wednesday, Dec. 17) that would allow adopted children in Texas to have the names of both parents listed on their supplemental birth certificates, regardless of the parents’ gender.

HB 537 and SB 250 would amend the Texas Health and Safety Code, which requires the supplemental birth certificate of an adopted child be in the names of the adoptive parents, one female and the other male.

“Texas families come in all shapes and sizes, including those formed by adoption. An adopted child needs to have a birth certificate that accurately reflects the child’s family,“  said Anchia.  “Texas laws should protect and support the rights of children and families — not hinder them.”

Under the current law, adopted children of same-gender couples are denied accurate birth certificates, which can cause difficulty in obtaining a passport or Social Security card or in registering for school.

“This bill removes an unreasonable obstacle to some children getting the important legal documentation they need,“  Garcia said.  “A birth certificate is vital and should accurately reflect both parents.  Neither these children nor their parents should be burdened with an incomplete birth certificate that omits a loving parent.”

As it stands, the requirement compels same-gender parents to carry and present documentation proving their legal parentage for medical care, school enrollment and international travel. Without a birth certificate, the child is left in legal limbo and can never have the same recognition of family status that is afforded other adopted children.

This will be the fourth consecutive legislative session that Anchia has filed this legislation. This is the first time the bill has been filed in the Senate.

—  James Russell

Oklahoma Supreme Court allows same-sex parents to seek custody

oklahoma-marriageThe Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled today (Wednesday, Nov. 12) that non-biological parents in a same-sex relationship can seek custody of children they raised based on an agreement to parent together.

The decision found there is no public policy in Oklahoma against a child having same-sex parents, and if a biological parent jointly conceives children with a non-biological parent and then raises those children together, she cannot deny the other parent the ability to seek custody or visitation based on their agreement.

“We applaud the Oklahoma Supreme Court for recognizing that when two parents raise a child together, both parents should be allowed to seek custody, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or biological ties,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura. “This decision recognizes that every child’s best interests must be protected when their parents break up, no matter what their family looks like.”

Julie Eldredge and Karen Taylor were in a long-term relationship and entered a civil union in New Zealand. They jointly decided to have two children through donor insemination, and they raised the children together for seven years until Karen, the biological mother, unilaterally cut off contact between Julie and the children. Julie sought shared custody of the children, but the trial court denied her petition for lack of standing.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that Eldredge is able to seek custody based on the parties’ agreement to parent the children, so long as custody is in the best interests of the children. The court also noted that same-sex parents in Oklahoma may obtain second-parent adoptions, where the non-biological parent may adopt without terminating the biological parent’s rights, but that same-sex parents who do not adopt may still seek custody based on an agreement.

“The public policy of this state mandates that the district court consider the best interests of the children before they lose one of the only two parents they have ever known,” the court wrote in its ruling.

“The real winners here are the children, whose rights to have loving parents are protected,” said Melody Huckaby Rowlett, attorney for Eldredge.

—  David Taffet

Chan and incumbent Campbell say gays shouldn’t be allowed to adopt


Elisa Chan

At a candidate screening by the San Antonio Express-News for state Senate District 25, two candidates, Elisa Chan and incumbent Sen. Donna Campbell, made their anti-gay views apparent. The third was noncommittal, according to Texas Freedom Network.

Chan made a name for herself last summer when she served on the San Antonio City Council, and an aide recorded an office meeting about how she could vote “no” on the city’s proposed nondiscrimination ordinance without incurring political fallout. Chan never apologized. Instead she blamed the ex-staffer for recording the conversation, resigned from the council and announced a run for the state Senate.

The question was, “Should gay couples be allowed to adopt?”

Chan: No.

Campbell: No.

Bexar County Commissioner Mike Novak: I’m not the judge.

Every time the Texas Legislature has broached the subject of gay couples adopting, Texas Child Protective Services has quietly but forcefully intervened to let legislators know that without the LGBT community, there’s no way CPS could handle the number of children in foster care each year.

Campbell, who has four adoptive children, is proposing reforms to the state’s adoption laws to make it easier to adopt children — apparently unless you’re gay.


—  David Taffet

Pat Robertson, protecting families from “weird” adopted kids

Although he does not mention gay adoption at all — that would be a longer clip, I’m sure — I felt compelled to share this little bit of Christian hatred and selfishness from the diseased mind of Pat Robertson, who comes out against adoption because he knows adopted kids grow up “weird.” No weirder than he ended up.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Pet of the Week • 02.24.12


PET.TobyToby is an adorable little terrier mix with a wiry cream-colored coat. He just loves people and is great with other small dogs. Toby is 8 months old and weighs 12 pounds.  This friendly fellow will make a loving, lifelong friend.

Toby and many other dogs, puppies, cats and kittens are available for adoption from Dallas Animal Services, 1818 N. Westmoreland at I-30, just minutes west of downtown Dallas. The shelter is open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sundays noon to 5 p.m. The regular adoption cost is $85 for dogs and $55 for cats, but discounts are offered for older animals and those in the shelter longer than 45 days and to senior citizens and those who adopt two animals at the same time. All dogs are negative for heartworms, and cats have been tested for FeLV and FIV. For more information, visit or call 214-671-0249.

—  Kevin Thomas

Pet of the week • 02.10.12




Gloria is a precious 5-month-old black kitten with a most unusual marking — a white band around her middle, which gives her a distinct and unique look. Gloria has other great attributes, too. She’s super-friendly, playful and full of fun. This cutie will make a great addition to any family.

Gloria and many other dogs, puppies, cats and kittens are available for adoption from Dallas Animal Services, 1818 N. Westmoreland at I-30, just minutes west of downtown Dallas. The shelter is open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. and Sundays 12 noon-5 p.m. The regular adoption cost is $85 for dogs and $55 for cats, but discounts are offered for older animals and those in the shelter longer than 45 days and to senior citizens and those who adopt two animals at the same time. All dogs are negative for heartworms, and cats have been tested for FeLV and FIV. For more information, visit, or call 214-671-0249

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas