Mississippi Supreme Court Made a Tragic Mistake in Denying Custody to Gay Father, Experts Say

Affiliate: ACLU of Mississippi
February 17, 1999 12:00 am

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ACLU of Mississippi
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Statement of Dan Landis, Professor of Psychology
and Director of the University of Mississippi’s
Center for Applied Research and Evaluation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OXFORD, MS–The Mississippi Supreme Court made a tragic mistake last week when it denied a gay father custody of his minor son, condemning the child to a home wracked with domestic violence and excessive drinking.

In reaching their decision, the courts disregarded all of the scientific evidence, which conclusively demonstrates that gays and lesbians make good parents and that children raised by gay and lesbian parents develop just as healthily as children raised by heterosexuals. Rather than focusing on the best interest of the child in this case, the Mississippi courts succumbed to anti-gay prejudice.

I and other members of the faculty of the University of Mississippi submitted a brief to the Mississippi Supreme Court to bring this body of scientific research to the court’s attention. We felt it was particularly important that the court consider such scientific research in view of the widespread prejudice that exists with respect to gay men and lesbians in the United States. I am disappointed that the majority of the court chose to ignore this scientific evidence.

Every respected national organization in the mental health and child welfare field has recognized that a parent’s sexual orientation is irrelevant in determining child custody. Among the organizations that have taken this position are the Child Welfare League of America, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Association of Social Workers.

I and my colleagues look forward to the day when courts will make custody determinations based on the best interest of the child, not on social prejudices that have no scientific basis and that do not serve children well. Sadly, that day has not yet arrived in Mississippi.

The friend-of-the-court brief submitted to the Mississippi Supreme Court by members of the faculty of the University of Mississippi was signed by Dan Landis, Professor of Psychology and Director of the University’s Center for Applied Research and Evaluation and former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts; Philip Cooker, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Psychology and Director of the University’s Graduate Program in Counseling and Guidance; Karen Christoff, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the University’s Clinical Training Program; Billy M. Barrios, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology; and Nathan Weed, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology.

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