- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2000

Mississippi has become the third state, after Florida and Utah, to legally ban homosexual couples from adopting children.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, signed the bill late Wednesday after it passed the legislature. It becomes effective July 1.

Supporters said the legislation was spurred in part by Vermont's new law giving homosexual couples nearly all of the benefits of marriage.

"We need to put up a fire wall and say, 'This is not going to happen here,' " Mike Crook, state director for the Tupelo-based American Family Association, said Wednesday. "They can go to court all day long, and I think we'll prevail."

Robert H. Knight of the Family Research Council in Washington praised the new law. "This is a victory for children who need both parents and it's a victory for common sense the presumption should always be that there's a preference for married-couple families" to raise children, he said.

Baptists and Methodists lobbied for the ban, while the state's top Episcopal leader urged its defeat.

The American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to file a lawsuit on behalf of an unidentified homosexual couple planning an adoption in Mississippi. The ACLU is already fighting Florida's law in court.

Representatives of homosexual rights groups said the Mississippi law was "backward" and cruel. Opponents said there was no reason for the state to get involved in the issue.

"It's a part of the 'get 'em' mentality. They have to be getting somebody," said Democratic state Rep. Jim Evans.

Opponents elsewhere agreed.

"I can't imagine anything more meanspirited than to deny a loving, committed couple the right to adopt a child. There's nothing about being gay that would preclude somebody from being an outstanding parent," said David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign.

Patricia Logue, a lawyer with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the law "is just a backward ruling that's not focusing on the best interests of the child. And it's going against a national trend that's exemplified by what Connecticut did," she said.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut state Senate moved in the opposite direction of Mississippi by giving final legislative approval to a bill that would allow homosexuals and other unmarried people to adopt their partners' children. Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland has said he would sign the bill into law.

Earlier this spring, Utah's Gov. Michael O. Leavitt signed a law that prohibits unmarried couples from adopting children.

Last year, however, New Hampshire repealed its ban on homosexual adoption.

To date, in at least 16 states, homosexual couples have been able to adopt each other's children, a process known as "second-parent adoption." These states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Through these second-parent adoptions, plus state adoption policies that allow single parents to adopt, "thousands and thousands of children" have already been adopted by homosexual couples, said Ms. Logue of Lambda.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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