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Preliminary Injunction Filed in Lawsuit Seeking to Immediate Relief From Mississippi Adoption Ban  

A motion seeking a preliminary injunction was filed today by two married couples with children in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Mississippi Department of Human Services, the federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law banning adoption by same-sex couples. Mississippi is the only state left in the nation that bans gay couples from adopting without regard for their qualifications as parents or the best interests of the child.

The Plaintiffs who filed the motion, Donna Phillips and Janet Smith & Kathy Garner and Susan Hrostowski, are among the “many same-sex couples” who the Supreme Court recently recognized “provide loving and nurturing homes to their children.” But because of the Mississippi Adoption Ban, only one member of each couple is a legal parent to their child. The motion argues that these families are irreparably harmed each day that the adoption ban remains in place and the other parent should be allowed to pursue adoption immediately.

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(Janet Smith and Donna Phillips with their 8-year-old daughter, Hannah Marie Phillips.)

Together for 20 years and now legally married, Donna Phillips and Janet Smith are raising an eight-year-old daughter. Kathy Garner and Susan Hrostowski were married in 2014 and have been together for nearly 26 years. They have a fifteen-year-old son. Under the current law, neither Janet nor Susan is recognized as a legal parent to their children.  

Read coverage of the filing by Chris Geidner.

Birmingham and Hattiesburg Convenings Announced

We are thrilled to announce that we are holding two convenings this fall to bring together grassroots leaders in the Deep South – October 9 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and November 14 in Birmingham, Alabama.

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At these one-day convenings, CSE – along with local partners including The Spectrum Center in Hattiesburg and AIDS Alabama in Birmingham – will host workshops, trainings, and conversations about critical topics for LGBT* Southerners, like the continued push for full legal equality and access to quality healthcare.

Click here for updates and to RSVP.

In April, we brought together nearly 500 LGBT* activists from across the region at the 2nd annual LGBT* in the South Conference. We hope that these satellite convenings will keep building connections between local LGBT* organizers doing vital groundwork to fight for equality in the South.

If you live in or near these areas, please join us in this effort toward building a better South.

Mississippi Adoption Ban Challenged in Federal Court, Last Ban in U.S.

A federal lawsuit was filed on August 12 challenging the constitutionality of Mississippi’s law banning adoption by same-sex couples. Mississippi is the only state left in the nation that bans gay couples from adopting without regard for their qualifications as parents or the best interests of the child.

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The case, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Mississippi Department of Human Services, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on behalf of four same-sex couples: Kari Lunsford and Tinora Sweeten-Lunsford, who are seeking to adopt a child; Brittany Rowell and Jessica Harbuck, also seeking to adopt; Donna Phillips and Janet Smith, parents to a young daughter; and Kathryn Garner and Susan Hrostowski, who have a 15-year-old son.

Two organizations — the Campaign for Southern Equality and Family Equality Council — join the case as plaintiffs representing the LGBT families across Mississippi.

Read coverage of the lawsuit by the New York Times.

13 Alabama Counties Losing Thousands in Revenue Over Denial of Marriage Licenses

Alabama counties are missing out on thousands of dollars in revenue as a result of probate judges closing marriage license offices. The 13 counties that are not currently issuing marriage licenses are forfeiting an estimated $132,106.50 in annual revenue.

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The Campaign for Southern Equality published a fact sheet about the impact of these closures titled “Closed for Business: Fact Sheet on Marriage Non-Complaince in Alabama.”

The full fact sheet is at: http://bit.ly/1MWiTut.

Despite no longer performing a vital aspect of their jobs, probate judge and probate court employees in those 13 continue to be paid their full salaries and benefits. Across the state, probate judges’ salaries range from $52,500 to $155,000 annually.

Advisory committee announced for 2016 LGBT* in the South conference

Join us in welcoming the members of the 2016 LGBT* in the South Advisory Committee! The Campaign for Southern Equality is honored to work with these talented and passionate individuals. As members of the advisory committee, they play an important role in shaping the 2016 LGBT* in the South conference.

Click here to read full bios of committee members.

“When you have change happening for women, for people of color, for LGBT people and their allies, that’s permanent, that stays,” said Mandy Carter the keynote speaker at the 2015 conference, who helped co-found Southerners on New Ground and the National Black Justice Coalition.

Learn more at: www.lgbtinthesouth.com.

Southern Equality Fund launches 

The Campaign for Southern Equality has launched the Southern Equality Fund with grants to eight organizations and individuals working to achieve legal and lived equality for LGBT people in the South. The Fund is a grantmaking initiative designed to direct resources to grassroots LGBT groups and elevate LGBT leadership across the South, especially in small towns and rural areas.

More than 3 in 10 LGBT adults live in the South – a higher number of LGBT adults than any other region – but Southern LGBT organizations receive less than 4 percent of national funding.

Check out the Southern Equality Fund awardees from the 2015 LGBT* in the South conference.

From left to right: Z Zaldivar of Equality NC Foothills and Transgender Allies Group (TAG), Jasmine Beach-Ferrara of CSE, Rev. Debbie Early of People Being Jesus (PBJ), Suzy Guerrero of Henderson Fuerza Activa, Brandon King of The Elite Project, and Joey Lopez of CSE.

From left to right: Z Zaldivar of Equality NC Foothills and Transgender Allies Group (TAG), Jasmine Beach-Ferrara of CSE, Rev. Debbie Early of People Being Jesus (PBJ), Suzy Guerrero of Henderson Fuerza Activa, Brandon King of The Elite Project, and Joey Lopez of CSE.

The second set of grantees are all projects located in Mississippi:

  • The Spectrum Center, which will use the grant to organize the first ever Pride celebration in Hattiesburg, Mississippi: Hattiesburg Unified Southern Pride;
  • Unity Mississippi, which is organizing Mississippi Pride 2015 to coincide with a marriage equality ruling from the Supreme Court in late June;
  • The Inner Light Community Church, a group dedicated to creating safe spaces for diverse communities in Jackson and countering oppressive theology;
  • An LGBT art exhibition that will feature the works of LGBT artists in North Mississippi.
CSE is actively raising funds for the next cycle of grants which will be announced in the fall of 2015.
Based in Asheville, North Carolina, the Campaign for Southern Equality is a non-profit organization that advocates for the full equality of LGBT individuals and families across the South.