Christian Parents Who Lost Custody of Child over Gender Disagreement Appeal to Supreme Court

Michael Foust | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: Feb 23, 2024
Christian Parents Who Lost Custody of Child over Gender Disagreement Appeal to Supreme Court

Christian Parents Who Lost Custody of Child over Gender Disagreement Appeal to Supreme Court

Three years after the state of Indiana removed a child from the home of two Christian parents over a disagreement about gender identity, the family is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and make it clear that the government’s action was unconstitutional. 

It could set a national precedent. 

The contentious case involves a Christian couple, Mary and Jeremy Cox, whose teen son began identifying as a girl in 2019 and using a female name and female pronouns. The Coxes explained to him their belief that God creates human beings either male or female and that such traits are immutable, according to court documents. Nevertheless, they agreed to begin calling him a compromise nickname: “A.” During this time, the Coxes also provided their son therapeutic care for what they believed were mental health issues and got him help for an eating disorder.

In 2021, the state of Indiana began investigating the couple following a complaint. Eventually, he was removed and placed “in a home that would affirm his preferred identity,” according to Becket, the legal group that represents the parents. Following an investigation, the state acknowledged any “accusations of abuse and neglect were unsubstantiated” but nevertheless said the disagreement over gender identity was reason enough to keep him away from his parents. Courts upheld the state’s decision. 

The Coxes are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in, rule against the state, and affirm the rights of parents to raise their children. The teen’s eating disorder only became worse after he was removed from their home, Becket said in its legal briefs. 

The teen is now an adult. 

“If this can happen in Indiana, it can happen anywhere,” said Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “Tearing a child away from loving parents because of their religious beliefs, which are shared by millions of Americans, is an outrage to the law, parental rights, and basic human decency. If the Supreme Court doesn’t take this case, how many times will this happen to other families?”

The state countered in court that the teen was removed from the home due to the eating disorder. Becket claims that is a cover for the central issue: the disagreement over gender identity.

“This case poses a question of national importance that is bound to recur absent this Court’s intervention,” Becket argued in its petition to the Supreme Court. “As described above, the numbers of transgender youth are rising, matched by governmental willingness to remove gender-dysphoric children from their parents’ custody. Indiana’s tack -- blame a comorbidity and dodge adjudication of parental fitness -- provides a playbook that any state can use to eviscerate bedrock constitutional protections while guaranteeing they remain insulated from review.

“... This case is especially apt for review since here, Indiana conceded and the trial court determined that petitioners were fit parents. Amid this fraught landscape, with the lives of real children and families hanging in the balance, this Court should grant this petition and affirm its precedents on the right of fit parents to custody of their children.”

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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist PressChristianity TodayThe Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.



Christian Parents Who Lost Custody of Child over Gender Disagreement Appeal to Supreme Court