When Mississippi adopted a one-sentence law forbidding adoptions by same-sex couples in 2000, it was not so surprising: For decades, gays and lesbians in several states had run into roadblocks when they sought to adopt or foster children.
So, it was a potent marker of how fast laws and attitudes on gay rights issues have changed when civil rights lawyers filed suit in U.S. District Court on Wednesday challenging the law.
Mississippi's ban is now the only one of its kind in the nation. And legal experts said that in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision upholding same-sex marriage, it was highly unlikely the state's ban could hold up in court.
The suit was filed by the Campaign for Southern Equality, the Family Equality Council and four Mississippi same-sex couples.
"We've come so far here just recently, it's pretty amazing the speed of the change," said Janet Smith, a plaintiff in the case, who is seeking to adopt the 8-year-old daughter, Hannah Marie Phillips, she is raising with her wife, Donna Phillips.
Because of the adoption ban, Smith has no official status in Hannah's life, Phillips being her only legal parent.
"We've had no problem, but I am in the military, so I could be called or activated at any time, and we are concerned about the legal aspects for Jan if something happened," said Phillips, who is a captain in the Mississippi Air National Guard.
Both women are cautiously hopeful that the lawsuit will quickly change their situation.
Last year, 29 percent of Mississippi's same-sex-couple households were raising children under 18 — the highest percentage of any state, the complaint said.
Roberta Kaplan, the New York lawyer handling the case, said that after the Supreme Court ruling, it seemed obvious that "the time was right to challenge the adoption ban and get it cleaned up."