Indiana Catholic Couple Asks Supreme Court to Hear Transgender Child Custody Case

The Indiana government in 2021 began investigating the Cox family after learning that they refused to address their son by his chosen identity.

Children in the foster care system.
Children in the foster care system. (photo: TgTsibe / Shutterstock)

An Indiana Catholic husband and wife are petitioning the Supreme Court to hear their case after the state government removed their child from their home after he began identifying as “transgender.”

Mary and Jeremy Cox refused to accept their son’s self-declared female identity in 2019, instead seeking therapy to address what they saw as underlying mental health concerns. 

The Indiana government in 2021 began investigating the Cox family after learning that they refused to address their son by his chosen identity. The government subsequently removed their son from their home, placing him in another home that “affirmed” his transgender beliefs. 

The state government subsequently dropped abuse allegations against the couple, though it still argued that the “disagreement over gender identity” was distressing to the child and was contributing to an ongoing eating disorder. Subsequent court decisions upheld the decision to keep the child out of the Coxes’ custody. 

On Thursday the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty announced that Mary and Jeremy Cox had filed a petition with the Supreme Court, asking the high court to “hold the state accountable for keeping their child out of their home.”

“This is what every parent is afraid of. 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 the release. 

“We are hopeful that the justices will take our case and protect other parents from having to endure the nightmare we did.”  

In their filing, the petitioners noted that Indiana “found the parents fit but still removed the child over an ideological dispute.” 

“Although Indiana found all allegations of abuse and neglect unsubstantiated, it refused to return [the child] home, substituting the judgment of the state for that of admittedly fit parents,” the filing said. 

“If this can happen in Indiana, it can happen anywhere,” Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said in the group’s press release. “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 filing called the dispute one of “nationwide importance,” arguing that Indiana’s actions conflict with Supreme Court precedent on free speech and religious liberty.

“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,” the filing says. 

Undamaged trees surround St. Joseph Church in Vanderburgh County, which lost its roof to a severe storm that moved through the area March 3, 2023.

Wind Rips Roof Off Historic Indiana Catholic Church

Father Schroeder said powerful straight-line winds lifted the metal roof — which was about 10 years old — entirely off, depositing debris largely in the parking lots as well as in a neighbor’s yard and driveway.