Finstuen v. Edmondson

Summary

In 2004, the Oklahoma legislature enacted an extreme law that left children adopted by same-sex couples in other states orphans in the eyes of the law when their families moved to or traveled through the state. Lambda Legal sought to overturn the law on behalf of three families. Each family is headed by a same-sex couple with children adopted in Washington, New Jersey and California respectively. Two of the families moved to Oklahoma; the third still lives out of state but wishes to travel to Oklahoma. We argued that the law is unconstitutional. A federal court struck down the extreme law and prohibited state officials from enforcing it in the future. The case was appealed and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit rejected the Oklahoma Department of Health's challenge to a lower court decision and struck down the antigay Adoption Invalidation Law.

Context

All legal parents have a fundamental right to care for and raise their children, which is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Lambda Legal's Impact

Wherever efforts are underway to write antigay discrimination into local and state law, Lambda Legal is fighting back. At the same time, Lambda Legal is solidifying LGBT parenting protections by challenging laws that attempt to nullify legal adoptions of children by same-sex partners.

History

  • September 2004 Lambda Legal files federal lawsuit to overturn Oklahoma’s antigay “Adoption Invalidation Law,” which nullifies legal adoptions of children by same-sex couples.
  • May 2006 Lambda Legal wins case in federal court.
  • October 2006 After the case is appealed, Lambda Legal files court papers arguing that the U.S. Court of Appeals should affirm the lower court ruling.
  • November 2006 Lambda Legal presents oral arguments before the Tenth Circuit court of Appeals.
  • August 2007 Victory! The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit rejects the Oklahoma Department of Health's challenge to a lower court decision effectively striking down the antigay Adoption Invalidation Law.

Case Information

Status: Closed
Outcome: Landmark Case

Plaintiffs

Heather Finstuen, Anne Magro, Ed Swaya, Greg Hampel

Attorneys

Lambda Legal
Brian Chase, Kenneth

Co-counsel/Cooperating Attorneys
Sandy Ingraham of Ingraham & Associates, PLLC, in McLoud, OK