In Stunning Reversal, Divided Federal Court Denies Accurate Birth Certificate to Son of Gay Dads

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"We are astonished that Oren and Mickey and their son have been told by this court that it is OK for the government to discriminate against their family."
April 13, 2011
Kenneth D. Upton, Jr.

"We expected that the State of Louisiana would respect the court decrees of other states, just as states have done for over 200 years."

(New Orleans, April 13, 2011) — Yesterday the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed two prior court rulings and denied an accurate birth certificate to a Louisiana born 5 year old boy who was adopted at birth by a gay couple in New York.

"We expected that the State of Louisiana would respect the court decrees of other states, just as states have done for over 200 years—and as the trial court and the earlier ruling of this court affirmed. But in today's ruling, this court seems willing to turn away from the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution just to deny an accurate birth certificate to this child adopted by his two fathers," said Ken Upton. "We are anstonished that Oren and Mickey and their son have been told by this court today that it is OK for the government to discriminate against their family."

Lambda Legal represents Oren Adar and Mickey Smith in their case against Louisiana State Registrar Darlene Smith. Adar and Smith are a gay couple who adopted their Louisiana-born son in 2006 in New York, where a judge issued an adoption decree. When the couple attempted to get a new birth certificate for their child, in part so Smith could add his son to his health insurance, the registrar's office told him that Louisiana does not recognize adoption by unmarried parents and so could not issue it.

Lambda Legal filed suit on behalf of Adar and Smith in October 2007, saying that the registrar was violating the Full Faith and Credit Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to recognize the New York adoption judgment because the child's parents are unmarried. The Constitution requires that judgments and orders issued by a court in one state be legally binding in other states. Further, a state may not disadvantage some children over others simply because the child's parents are unmarried. The Louisiana attorney general disagreed, and advised the registrar that she did not have to honor an adoption from another state that would not have been granted under Louisiana law had the couple lived and adopted there. In 2009, U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey ruled against the registrar and issued a summary judgment ordering her to issue a new birth certificate identifying both Oren Adar and Mickey Smith as the boy's parents, saying her continued failure to do so violated the U.S. Constitution. In 2010, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and affirmed the judgment. The attorney general requested a rehearing by the full Court of Appeals which was granted and resulted in the opinion released yesterday.

The case is Adar v. Smith.

Read the decision.

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Contact Info

Contact: Lisa Hardaway; 212-809-8585 x 266; lhardaway@lambdalegal.org

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.

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