Lambda Legal Urges Federal Appeals Court to Uphold Decision Striking Down Oklahoma's Antigay Adoption Invalidation Law
(Denver, October 17, 2006) — In papers filed in court today, Lambda Legal argued that the U. S. Court of Appeals should affirm a lower court ruling that Oklahoma’s antigay Adoption Invalidation Law is unconstitutional.
“It’s dangerous and appalling that state officials seek to jeopardize the safety and well being of children in Oklahoma,” said Ken Upton, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office and lead attorney on the case. “The Adoption Invalidation Law threatens the welfare of children and their parents because it forbids agents of the State such as police, health officials, and child welfare officials from recognizing these families, and it doesn’t even consider who would protect these children if the State severs the ties between parent and child.”
U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron wrote in her decision released in May that, “The very fact that the adoptions have occurred is evidence that a court of law has found the adoptions to be in the best interests of the children... To now attempt to strip a child of one of his or her parents seems far removed from the statute’s purpose and therefore from Defendants’asserted important government objective.”
The Adoption Invalidation Law, hastily passed at the end of the 2004 Oklahoma legislative session, said that Oklahoma “shall not recognize an adoption by more than one individual of the same sex from any other state or foreign jurisdiction.” Lambda Legal argued that the law was unconstitutional based on the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection, due process and right to travel, as well as the mandates of the Full Faith and Credit Clause.
The lower court found that the statute indeed violated the United States Constitution by singling out a specific group for discrimination and upheld all of Lambda Legal’s other claims, except the right to travel. The Court dismissed the claims of Lambda Legal clients Ed Swaya and Greg Hampel, because the Court found that the statute did not harm them since the State of Oklahoma granted the couple a birth certificate for their adopted daughter listing the two men as her parents prior to the passage of the law and they did not face immediate harm.
Oral arguments in the case will be heard in the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver on Monday, November 13.
Ken Upton, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas is Lambda Legal’s lead attorney on the case. He is joined by Lambda Legal Staff Attorney, Brian Chase, and cooperating attorney Sandy Ingraham of Ingraham & Associates, P.L.L.C. in McLoud, Oklahoma.
The Case is Finstuen et al v. Edmondson et al.
Mark Roy: 212-809-8585 ext.267
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.