In 1988, Tammy Brown and her boys, Christopher and Steven, came to
Los Angeles from Meridian, Mississippi, seeking a new life and an
escape from her abusive husband. Tammy's divorce decree gave her
full custody of the couple's children, with summer visits to their
father in Meridian.

In 1989, Tammy broke the oldest taboo in the South -- she started
dating an African-American man named Jake Brown. That decision has
cost her the custody of her children.

During their summer visit to Meridian in 1990, the two boys told
their grandparents that Tammy had a friend and that her friend was
black. The grandparents said they would never permit the boys to go
back to such a situation and convinced a Mississippi judge to take
"emergency jurisdiction" over the boys. The "emergency" was the
inter-racial relationship between Tammy and Jake and the fact that
Tammy's openly lesbian sister babysat for the boys on occasion.

After the first court hearing in October of 1990 -- a hearing
riddled with racial references to Jake -- Tammy tried to take her
boys home but was met by the grandmother and a pistol. She returned
home to California and in November of 1990 she married Jake Brown.

In December 1990, the same judge held another hearing and found, to
the amazement of Tammy's lawyers, that Tammy had waived any
objection to the jurisdiction of the court. After the boys' father
conceded he was an unfit parent, the judge then proceded to grant
full custody to the grandparents. On Christmas, Tammy Brown was
thrown in jail for trying to take her children and ordered to post a
$10,000 bond if she wanted to see her boys outside the presence of
the grandparents.

The case was appealed but the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the
decision without an opinion.

By the time Tammy Brown came to the ACLU she had no money to hire
lawyers and no hope. The ACLU Foundation of Southern California has
taken this case because it presents a situation of overt racism and
homophobia that is intolerable as this nation approaches the 21st
century: Tammy Brown lost her children simply because she fell in
love with a black man.

In July, the ACLU/SC began what may be a long legal struggle for
Tammy to be reunited with her children by filing a motion in the
Meridian, Mississippi, Chancery Court seeking to enforce Tammy's
right to visit with her children in Mississippi at her mother's
home. The grandparents have refused to allow even this two week

"This was an outrageous injustice that occurred," said Paul Hoffman,
legal director for the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. "We
will try everything we can to correct that injustice and to send a
clear message that this kind of bigotry cannot be tolerated."

The case is being handled by Hoffman, with assistance from local
cooperating counsel Rob McDuff of Kay, Scholer, Fierman, Hays, &
Handler. This case has touched so many people that we have received
offers of assistance from across the country.