State’s gender doctrine | WORLD
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State’s gender doctrine

LAW | An Indiana parental rights case has big implications

Illustration by Krieg Barrie

State’s gender doctrine
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“WHEN CAN the state muzzle parental speech and remove a child from the home of admittedly fit parents?”

That’s the question an Indiana couple, Mary and Jeremy Cox, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider in a case with broad implications for parental rights. In previous rulings, state courts sided with officials who removed the Coxes’ teenage son from their home because they refused to support his gender transition.

In their Feb. 15 brief, the Coxes argue that removal of their son violated their parental rights, along with religious and free-speech rights. The Roman Catholic couple believes God creates each person as immutably male or female.

Officials with the Indiana Department of Child Services launched an investigation in 2021 after a complaint that the Coxes were not using their 16-year-old son’s cross-gender name and pronouns. Allegations of abuse and neglect were later dismissed, but the agency still found the son’s removal warranted.

“We love our son and wanted to care for him, but the state of Indiana robbed us of that opportunity by taking him from our home and banning us from speaking to him about gender,” the parents said in a statement.

The Coxes’ son is now an adult, but the outcome of his case would still have ramifications for similarly accused parents. The Supreme Court could agree to hear the case or decline to take it up, leaving in place the lower court rulings.

Becket Fund attorney Laura Slavis is guardedly optimistic the court will take the case. “If this can happen in Indiana, it can happen in any state in the country,” she said.

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Searches without warrant

Ransacked belongings. Strip-searches of children. Threats of removal. Those are just some of the allegations made by nine parents in a class-action lawsuit filed Feb. 20 against a New York City agency charged with promoting child safety.

The parents seek compensation from the Adminis­tration for Children’s Services for violation of the Fourth Amendment’s bar on unreasonable searches. They contend that of 53,000 investigations of child abuse and neglect conducted last year, officials sought court search orders in only 222 cases. Only 7 percent of cases led to charges. Over 80 percent of targeted parents are black or Hispanic.

A spokeswoman told Courthouse News Service the city agency was “committed to keeping children safe and respecting parents’ rights.” Critics have accused the 7,400-employee agency of structural racism, yet 88 percent of those employees are nonwhite, according to 2020 data. —S.W.

Steve West

Steve is a reporter for WORLD. A graduate of World Journalism Institute, he worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor in Raleigh, N.C., where he resides with his wife.



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