(Reuters) - Gay rights advocates in Mississippi filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday challenging the state’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples, saying the law is unconstitutional because it discriminates against legally married couples.
The plaintiffs include four same-sex couples, two of whom are already raising children, as well as the Campaign for Southern Equality and the Family Equality Council.
The Mississippi ban on adoption by same-sex couples is the only one of its kind in the United States. Gay marriage was legalized in the state last year.
The suit filed against the Mississippi Department of Human Services comes just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down gay marriage bans as unconstitutional across the country.
“Mississippi’s ban on adoption by gay and lesbian couples blatantly discriminates against loving families, unfairly harms innocent children, and plainly cannot be reconciled with the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection as recently interpreted by the Supreme Court,” Roberta Kaplan, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
Officials at the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office said they were reviewing the complaint.
Reacting to the lawsuit, the conservative American Family Association based in Mississippi said in a statement that “placing a child in a home where he or she is denied the opportunity to at least have a mother and a father is a social experiment that only satisfies the needs of the adults.”
Citing 2010 census data, the lawsuit said one-third of the 3,484 same-sex couples living in Mississippi were raising children.
About 100 children in Mississippi are in foster care and legally available for adoption, the suit said.
“The Mississippi Adoption Ban is an outdated relic of a time when the courts and legislatures believed that it was OK to discriminate against gay people simply because they are gay,” it said.
Among those filing the lawsuit are Brittany Rowell and Jessica Harbuck, a Jackson couple who said in a statement they “feel compelled to adopt” in order to help a foster child and expand their family.
“We want to open our home to a child and make them feel safe, wanted and loved,” the pair said. “And we would be honored to be able to change the life of a child.”
Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Bill Trott and Mohammad Zargham