The Coxes’ Testimonial

Four years ago, Mary and Jeremy Cox lost custody of their 16-year-old son for refusing to affirm his gender confusion. Last week, the Supreme Court declined to hear the Indiana couple’s petition alleging the state violated their parental rights.

It’s a disappointing end to the Cox’s nightmarish case, and a reminder that, sometimes, the biggest threat to parents’ constitutional rights isn’t officials who break the law, but officials who uphold it.

The Coxes lost custody of their 16-year-old in May 2021, after Indiana’s Department of Child Services (DCS) received two complaints regarding the couple’s alleged abusive treatment of their son’s “transgender identity” (State Brief in Opposition, p. 3).

A court dismissed all allegations of abuse against the Coxes in October 2021 after DCS found the complaints were “unsubstantiated” (p.6) — but the couple didn’t get their son back. He remained in the foster system to get treatment for an eating disorder that had worsened under the state’s care.

The Coxes’ experience is the worst case scenario for every parent who knows gender confusion is a debilitating mental illness and social contagion, rather than a personal identity.

The scariest part? It was all legal.

In its opposition to the Cox’s Supreme Court petition, Indiana explained how DCS and the courts adhered to the state’s Children in Need of Services (CHINS) procedure (p. 2), which purports to protect children whose health or well-being are in danger.

When the Coxes first lost custody of their son, DCS classified him as CHINS-1 and -2, which refer to children abused by their parents. The department alleged the couple had not only verbally abused their child but failed to provide him treatment for a serious eating disorder. DCS further claimed the child was “more likely to have thoughts of self-harm and suicide at the [Coxes] home ‘due to mental and emotional abuse’ (p. 4).

Progressive beliefs about gender identity clearly influenced DCS’ perception of said abuse. Becket Law, the firm representing the couple, notes that DCS’ evidence of wrongdoing included that the Coxes didn’t use “Indiana’s LGBTQ resources for parenting transgender children.”

The Indiana Family Institute (IFI), a Focus on the Family-allied Family Policy Council that filed the Coxes’ Supreme Court Petition, further references DCS’ courtroom argument from the first custody hearing:

We just feel that at this point in time this child needs to be in a home that’s not going to teach her that trans, like everything about transgender … tell her how she should think and how she should feel. However, she should be in a home where she is accepted for who she is.

In October, DCS dismissed all allegations of abuse against the Coxes, who provided evidence they had been properly treating their son’s gender confusion and eating disorder in conjunction with therapists and doctors. (Petition p. 8-9).

The Cox’s son could no longer be labeled CHINS-1 and -2 because his parents had been vindicated of wrongdoing. But instead of releasing him back to the Coxes, DCS labeled him CHINS-6 — “[A child who] substantially endangers their own health or the health of another individual.”

DCS’ referenced the child’s worsening eating disorder, claiming the state had a compelling interest to make sure the child received treatment (State Brief in Opposition, p. 6-7).

Though his eating disorder became exacerbated in the foster care system, DCS “expressed concern that the eating disorder would worsen if placed back in the parent’s home” because of the Cox’s refusal to affirm his gender confusion. Becket Law summarizes:

State officials surprised the parents by pointing to the disagreement over gender as a reason to keep [their son] away from his parents. The state said it contributed to an eating disorder, even though that disorder became worse after he was removed and placed in a transition-affirming home.

Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision to keep the Cox’s son in state custody. Despite DCS’ complete and voluntary exoneration of the Cox from all allegations of abuse, the court writes, “The Parents have the right to exercise their religious beliefs, but they do not have the right to exercise them in a manner that causes physical or emotional harm to the child.”

The Cox’s son turned 18 in 2023 without ever returning to his parents’ custody. But the couple still appealed to the Supreme Court, hoping to secure a ruling that would prevent their suffering from happening to any other fit parent.

Though the Supreme Court will not be hearing the couple’s case, IFI’s General Counsel Joshua Hershberger assures believers all is not lost:

Though SCOTUS denied the Petition of Mary and Jeremy Cox yesterday, we did accomplish the goal of placing this fact pattern in front of SCOTUS as a real and growing threat to parental rights, freedom of religion, and free speech. These constitutional principles represent a cause — not just a case — and we will continue to advocate for that cause in law and culture.

Child services has discriminated against more families than the Coxes. Keep a sharp eye out for similar cases in your community, and contact your local Family Policy Council to find out how you can get involved protecting parents’ rights.

Additional Articles and Resources

Massachusetts DCF Denied a Catholic Couple’s Foster Care License — Now, They’re Being Sued for Religious Discrimination

VIDEO: Parenting Through Gender Confusion, Public Schools

Protect Your Kids from ‘Trans’ Activism — Look for These Red Flags