Little Victories for Gay Adoption: A Mississippi Ruling in Favor of Two Lesbian Moms Shows That States May Be Forced to Allow Gay Parents Even as They Reject Gay Couples. (Gay Parenting)

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When Cheri Goldstein and Holly Perdue asked officials in Mississippi to recognize the out-of-state adoption of their 5-year-old son, Taliesin, they were denied. Parental rights, the state argued, could not be applied to a lesbian couple because the state does not recognize gay relationships.

But a Mississippi judge ruled in March that the state board of health was required to grant the couple's request for an amended birth certificate for their Mississippi-born child, whom they adopted in their home state of Vermont.

"Our son should have the same legal birth right as anyone else," Goldstein says, noting that many judges and lawmakers known for antigay decisions have changed their views when the needs of a child are involved.

Indeed, as states clamor to pass measures banning recognition of out-of state marriage fights for gay couples, the portability of gay adoption is becoming more recognized. Adoption experts point out that the Mississippi case, one of several new developments, not only promises to strengthen the rights of gay parents everywhere but sets a powerful precedent for same-sex couples seeking rights in states unfriendly to gay parents.

Although some states have tried, none has passed the equivalent of a "defense of adoption act" banning the recognition of adoptions by gays in other states. And that's primarily because of the disruption such a law would cause in the lives of so many children, experts say. In the Mississippi case, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented Goldstein and Perdue, used a historically successful argument: that adopted children are entitled to equal protection under the state constitution.

"It's a victory for the principle that there is no gay exception to certain laws," says Greg Nevins, the staff attorney in Lambda's Southern regional office who handled the case.

Because the needs of children are at stake, even states such as Mississippi, which prohibits in-state adoption by same-sex couples, are apt to recognize the rights of gay parents who have obtained legal custody elsewhere. "There are a lot of cases about not treating children unfairly because you disapprove of their parents," says Jon Davidson, senior counsel for Lambda's Western regional office.

Moreover, in an effort to reduce budget costs, states have been pressing for permanent homes for children languishing in the foster care system. …


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