A same-sex couple’s foster child was ordered removed from the home earlier this month, with the judge in the case declaring that the child should be placed instead with a heterosexual couple, because, he said, those homes are better for children. The backlash was immediate, and the order was quickly reversed — at least temporarily. However, the entire case (and the fact that it isn’t yet settled) highlights the fact that the battle over marriage equality didn’t end with the Supreme Court ruling this summer.
To be quite clear, the New York Times reports that, while the judge did rescind the order to have the foster child, a 9-month-old baby, placed in a different home inside a week, he has not backed down completely, and intends to revisit the case on December 4. Thus, the couple, Rebecca Peirce and April Hoagland, who have been married for more than a year, are still left in a type of limbo, aware that by Christmas they may lose the infant, who they were hoping to adopt.
The Supreme Court ruled in June that laws preventing same-sex couples from marrying were discriminatory and unconstitutional, and though proponents of marriage equality cheered the victory, civil rights groups warned that the battle wasn’t over.
Since then, marriage rights for same-sex couples have been the subject, directly or tangentially, of several legal battles. One such case was that of Kim Davis, the Kentucky Court Clerk who fought in court for the right not only to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples (she was willing to deny licenses to all couples if necessary to obtain that right of refusal) but to forbid other clerks in her office to issue them.
In her case, it became clear that the whim of an individual might still forestall the rights that the Supreme Court had affirmed same-sex couples should share.
There’s also the case of Judge Vance Day, accused of a number of ethics violations including refusing to preside over marriages for same-sex couples. (Though religious officials, such as pastors, have the right to refuse any marriage for any reason, government officials cannot refuse on a discriminatory basis.)
However, marriage itself isn’t the only right same-sex couples seek to share equally. They’d also like to be guaranteed the same rights as opposite-sex couples to share employment and insurance benefits, to adopt, to raise children as a family, and to dissolve their marriages if they so choose — all things that have turned up as additional battles.
The Mississippi Daily Journal outlines a battle similar to the one Peirce and Hoagland are facing — the greatest difference being that Mississippi actually still has a ban on adoption by same-sex couples. There, four couples are fighting to have the ban overturned. In Utah, where Peirce and Hoagland live, the law at least appears to be on their side — there is no official ban on a same-sex couple adopting or fostering children, and the judge who has tried to enforce this belief as law is facing opposition.
Also in Mississippi, a recent case hinged on whether a legally married same-sex couple can seek a divorce — a case that, according to LGBTQ Nation, was narrowly settled earlier this month, when five out of nine State Supreme Court Justices agreed, only after the State’s Attorney General reversed his initial position opposing the divorce.
The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the right of same-sex couples to marry, but there are still legal battles being fought across the country regarding exactly what that entails. This same-sex couple’s fight to keep their foster child, in a state whose laws do not even support denying that right, is simply one more case making it clear: the battle for marriage equality isn’t over until the rights of all couples in marriage are equal.
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