Mississippi is the only state that bans same-sex couples from adopting children, and lawyer Alex Ignatiev said it may take a while for this law to change.
"No other state has an expressed ban, so until a case from Mississippi reaches that highest level, whether it’s the Mississippi Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, technically these bans will be constitutionally permitable," Ignatiev said.
Ignatiev said the Supreme Court ruling on the Alabama case is a step in the right direction. On Monday, the court reversed an Alabama court's ruling that refused to recognize a same-sex adoption. Two women ended a long-term relationship but before their breakup, one partner had three children, and the other partner formally adopted them in Georgia. Alabama courts got involved when the birth mother tried to prevent her former partner from regular visits with the children.
However, this ruling will not have an effect on the Mississippi lawsuit that is attempting to overturn the state's ban on adoptions.
"They are just attacking the law on the face saying it discriminates against people who are married and otherwise have all the rights,” Ignatiev said.
Same-sex couples like Russ Royals and Donnie Cleveland believe they deserve to get recognized as legal parents of their child. They have been happily married for five years and never expected to be fathers, but a boy named John came into their lives and asked them to be his parents.
"He's the one who actually initiated this and asked us to be his parents, and you don’t deny a child," Cleveland said.
What John didn't know is that only one of the fathers would have legal custody over him.
According to Ignatiev, there is a loophole to the law that requires Mississippi to recognize same-sex adoption if it takes place in a different state, but for this family that is out of the question.
"To adopt out of state we would have to move out of state and this is home," Royals said. "We love Mississippi."
For now, all the couple can do is wait and hope that they will be legally recognized as a family.
"I know how I felt the day the adoption went through on my part and I want Donnie to have that same feeling, to know that that's forever my child," Royals said.
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