Lambda Legal Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Review Louisiana's Refusal to Respect Out-of-State Adoption by Same-Sex Parents

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"The state of Louisiana cannot withhold a birth certificate for this child simply because it doesn't like who his parents are."

Date

Date: 
07/11/2011
Kenneth D. Upton, Jr.

"We have long since abandoned the notion that the government can punish children to express disapproval of their parents or their families."

(New Orleans, July 11, 2011)—Today Lambda Legal filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of a same-sex couple seeking an accurate birth certificate for their Louisiana-born son whom they adopted in New York. The state of Louisiana has refused to recognize the adoption and issue a birth certificate listing both fathers as the boy's parents.

"By treating adopted children whose parents are unmarried worse than other adopted children, Louisiana violates two well-established federal constitutional protections, both of which embody principles of equal treatment and unify us as a nation. First, the constitution mandates that Louisiana, like every other state, must treat all out-of-state adoption judgments equally. Second, Louisiana may not treat adopted children themselves differently based on the marital status of their legal parents," said Kenneth D. Upton, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's South Central Regional Office based in Dallas. "We have long since abandoned the notion that the government can punish children to express disapproval of their parents or their families. The state of Louisiana cannot withhold a birth certificate for this child simply because it doesn't like who his parents are."

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 they 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 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 2008, U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey ruled against the registrar and entered 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 unanimously affirmed the judgment. The attorney general requested a rehearing by the full Court of Appeals, which was granted, and a sharply divided court issued a decision this spring overturning the prior decisions.

Today's petition to the U.S Supreme court argues that the Fifth Circuit's ruling ignores nearly one hundred years of well-established Supreme Court law and conflicts with other federal circuits across the country. Left untouched, it carves out an exception to the uniformly recognized respect for judgments that states have come to rely upon and leaves adopted children and their parents vulnerable in their interactions with officials from other states.

View the legal papers filed today.

The case is Adar v. Smith.

Kenneth D. Upton, Jr., Supervising Senior Staff Attorney, is handling the case for Lambda Legal. He is joined by Paul Smith of Jenner & Block in Washington, D.C., and Regina O. Matthews and Spencer R. Doody of Martzell & Bickford in New Orleans.

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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.