U.S. Supreme Court Denies Lambda Legal Appeal of Louisiana Birth Certificate Ruling

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“The Supreme Court is leaving untouched a dangerous ruling that carves out an exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution”

Date

Date: 
10/11/2011
Kenneth D. Upton, Jr.

"This decision leaves adopted children and their parents vulnerable in their interactions with officials from other states."

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

"By denying this writ, the Supreme Court is leaving untouched a dangerous Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that carves out an exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution and to the uniformly recognized respect for judgments that states have come to rely upon," said Kenneth D. Upton, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's South Central Regional Office in Dallas. "This decision leaves adopted children and their parents vulnerable in their interactions with officials from other states."

"More particularly, this decision leaves a child without an accurate birth certificate listing both his parents," Upton added. "This issue now moves into the legislative arena. We need to push for a change in Louisiana state policy in order to stabilize and standardize respect for parent-child relationships for all adoptive children."

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 would not issue it with both adopted parents' names.

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 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, and a sharply divided court issued a decision this spring overturning the prior decisions.

In July Lambda Legal asked the U.S Supreme court to review the case arguing 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. In August, the nation's leading child welfare organizations joined family law and constitutional scholars in support of Lambda Legal's petition for a writ of certiorari, filing six separate friend-of-the-court briefs. The signatories included: National Association of Social Workers; Child Welfare League of America; Center for Adoption Policy; Tulane School of Law – Juvenile Litigation Clinic; Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana; and more than 60 legal scholars. "Unfortunately, same–sex parents who have or plan to adopt children are treated differently from state to state at this point," added Upton. "So we urge parents to check with an attorney and take every step they can to protect their families – and to call Lambda Legal's HelpDesk if they need more information."

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: Tom Warnke; 213-382-7600 ex 247;twarnke@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.