In re Infant Girl W.

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Status: Closed
Indiana Supreme Court
Issues: Marriage, Relationships and Family Protections

Case arguing for joint adoption by same-sex couples

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In 2004, Indiana asked Becki Hamilton and Kim Brennan to be foster parents to a newborn infant, with the goal of adoption. Months later, a Morgan County foster care judge realized that Hamilton and Brennan were lesbians and ordered the state to find a married man and woman to adopt the child. Several months later, Hamilton and Brennan jointly adopted the child in another county. The foster care judge declared any adoption entered in another county was invalid, and that adoption by two women would be unacceptable to the people of Morgan County. He ordered the child removed from her home and placed with a married heterosexual couple. The state appealed the adoption order while Hamilton and Brennan appealed the removal order. Lambda Legal had counseled their local attorney about how to keep the family intact after the removal order was entered and represented Hamilton and Brennan in the appellate proceedings. We secured a victory at the Indiana Court of Appeals establishing the right of joint adoption by same-sex couples and confirming the legality of Hamilton and Brennan’s adoption. After the attorney general attempted a further appeal, we persuaded the Indiana supreme court not to review the case.


For many years, Indiana courts have performed second-parent adoptions (where one partner adopts the other’s child) and joint adoptions (where a couple simultaneously adopts unrelated child). Additionally, second-parent adoption had been upheld by the Court of Appeals in several cases.

Lambda Legal's Impact

This case presented the first opportunity to recognize the right of joint adoption in Indiana, as well as a chance to address the common problem of individual judges who withhold rights based on their own or the community’s negative view of LGBT people rather than state law. Our victory established the right of gay and lesbian couples in Indiana to adopt jointly, and without facing discrimination in deciding who may adopt a foster child or whether a valid adoption will be honored.