California Supreme Court to Review Second-Parent Adoption Decision
(LOS ANGELES Wednesday, January 30, 2002) — The California Supreme Court has agreed to review the question of whether second-parent adoptions are allowed in the state, said Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Wednesday. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, the San Diego appellate court opinion that had brought these adoptions into question has been de-published.
The case, Sharon S. v. Superior Court, involved a dispute over the validity of second-parent adoption, which allows both members of a same-sex or other unmarried couple to become the legal parents of their children. In an October, 2001 decision that sent shock waves throughout the state, the lower court appeared to call into question the legitimacy of these longstanding adoptions. Even as modified a month later, the decision still created confusion in an area affecting thousands of children in families throughout California.
“We are pleased the Court has agreed to consider this enormously important issue,” said Jennifer Pizer, senior staff attorney for Lambda. “The lower court’s decision ignored the best interests of children and created confusion where California families need clarity and stability.”
The order granting Supreme Court review automatically de-publishes the lower court’s decision, meaning it cannot be relied upon or cited in future cases.
“It is an enormous relief to have the lower court decision removed,” Pizer said. “The Supreme Court obviously recognized how important this issue is to parents and children. Besides depriving Joshua--the child involved in this case--of having two legal parents, the lower court’s decision caused concern among many other families who were not even involved in the case, because it created doubt about their legal status.”
Over the past 15 years, trial courts across the state have routinely granted thousands of second-parent adoptions, and thousands of California families now rely on these adoption decrees to provide health insurance, Social Security, pension and inheritance rights, and other crucial protections for their children.
In spite of this settled practice, which has the approval of the California Department of Social Services, the San Diego appellate court’s unprecedented interpretation of California’s adoption statutes means that trial courts lack the authority to grant second-parent adoptions. Lambda filed letters with the California Supreme Court in support of the petition for review and requesting de-publication of the lower court decision. Lambda also authored a “friend of the court” brief to the appellate court that was joined by The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, The ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Lambda is the oldest and largest legal organization dedicated to the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS. Lambda’s headquarters is in New York with regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta. Lambda will open an office in Dallas in 2002.
Contact: Jennifer Pizer 323-937-2728 x 223 213-590-5903[cell]
Amanda Scioscia 212-809-8585 x 241 888-987-1971