Federal Court Orders Louisiana to Issue Birth Certificate

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U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Couple Denied Birth Certificate for Adopted Child

On February 18, 2010, Lambda Legal convinced the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to rule that the Louisiana Registrar of Vital Statistics must respect a New York adoption by a same-sex couple of a Louisiana-born boy.

"We're pleased our son will finally have a birth certificate where he sees both his parents included," said plaintiff and parent Oren Adar. "A birth certificate is more than a piece of paper. It’s at the heart of your identity."

The three-member panel voted unanimously to uphold a lower court ruling in favor of Lambda Legal clients Adar and Mickey Smith, a gay couple who adopted their Louisiana-born son in 2006 in a New York court 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 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 of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to recognize the New York adoption. The Constitution requires that judgments and orders issued by a court in one state be legally binding in other states as well.

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 December 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 Adar and Smith as the boy's parents, saying her continued failure to do so violated the U.S. Constitution. The attorney general appealed the case, unsuccessfully.

"Even our opponents have said this is a landmark case," said Ken Upton, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal, "and we're pleased the court agrees that it's wrong to punish children just because the Registrar doesn't like their parents."

The case is Adar v. Smith.