Lambda Legal Files Federal Lawsuit Seeking to Strike Down Extreme Antigay Adoption Law in Oklahoma
(Norman, Oklahoma, September 15, 2004) — In a federal lawsuit filed today, Lambda Legal seeks to overturn a law so extreme that it may leave children adopted by same-sex couples in other states orphans in the eyes of the law when the families are in the state of Oklahoma.
Lambda Legal represents same-sex couples who adopted children while living in other states and later moved to Oklahoma with their children or want to visit the state with their family.
“This drastic law could be interpreted to nullify legal adoptions of children by same-sex couples in other states when they are in Oklahoma,” said Brian Chase, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas. “What we are talking about here are Oklahoma legislators who disapprove of gay people and lashed out by passing a law that punishes children for having gay or lesbian parents.”
Anne Magro and Heather Finstuen, together 13 years, are parents to six-year-old twin girls born to Anne in New Jersey and adopted through a second-parent adoption by Heather while living in New Jersey. The family now lives in Norman, Oklahoma, where Anne teaches accounting at the University of Oklahoma. The new law endangers the legal relationship established lawfully by a New Jersey court between Heather and her girls.
“I worry about being allowed to parent my children, from doctor’s visits to school field trips and everything in between. What would happen to the girls if Anne died tomorrow—would Oklahoma consider me their parent or would they come take the girls away from me?” said Heather Finstuen, plaintiff in the case. “We are a family. Anne and I made the decision to raise children together and with that decision came the responsibility to protect them as much as we can. Oklahoma should respect my adoption—instead they are putting my children at risk.”
The law, passed hastily at the end of the Oklahoma legislative session earlier this year, says that Oklahoma, “shall not recognize an adoption by more than one individual of the same sex from any other state or foreign jurisdiction.”
Also plaintiffs on the case are Ed Swaya and Greg Hampel, who live in Washington State and adopted their two-year-old daughter Vivian from a woman in Oklahoma. The two men made news earlier this year when the state of Oklahoma initially refused to issue an amended birth certificate that accurately reflected both men as Vivian’s parents after a court in Washington issued an adoption decree. Before the new law was passed, the Oklahoma State Department of Health issued Vivian’s correct birth certificate, but Swaya and Hampel are now hesitant to bring Vivian to Oklahoma to visit her birth mother and see the state where she was born.
“If Vivian were hurt, would an Oklahoma hospital recognize Greg and me as her lawful parents? I’m not prepared to take that risk. I have a very real fear that as a parent I wouldn’t be allowed to make critical decisions for my daughter when she needs me the most,” said Ed Swaya.
Lambda Legal argues the hastily passed law is unconstitutional based on the 14th Amendment guaranteeing Equal Protection and the Full Faith and Credit clause in the United States Constitution.
Brian Chase is Lambda Legal’s attorney on the case. He is joined by cooperating attorney Sandy Ingraham of Ingraham & Associates, P.L.L.C. in McLoud, OK.