Lambda Legal Receives Forum for Equality's First Justice Acclaim Award

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"Lambda Legal's commitment to the Louisiana birth certificate case moved us to create this award and recognize Lambda Legal's work."
September 20, 2011

"Lambda Legal is honored to receive this award." 

(New Orleans, La., September 20, 2011) - Forum for Equality Louisiana has named Lambda Legal as the first recipient of its Justice Acclaim Award in recognition of Lambda Legal’s work on the case of the gay couple seeking a Louisiana birth certificate for their Louisiana-born adopted son.

"This is our first Justice Award and it is only fitting to have Lambda Legal be the recipient," Forum for Equality Louisiana's Managing Director SarahJane Brady said. "Lambda Legal's commitment to equality and the Louisiana birth certificate case moved us to create this award in recognition of their work, dedication and achievements."

Kenneth Upton, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's South Central Regional Office in Dallas, will accept the award at Forum for Equality's 13th Acclaim Awards on Saturday, September 24th. Upton is the lead attorney on the birth certificate case, Adar v. Smith, Lambda Legal's challenge of the State of Louisiana's refusal to issue an accurate birth certificate to a Louisiana-born child who was adopted by a same-sex couple in New York. Lambda Legal has petitioned for a writ of certiorari asking the U. S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

"Lambda Legal is honored to receive this award," Upton said. "In addition to Adar v. Smith, our work in Louisiana includes successfully defending the City of New Orleans domestic partner registry as well as the City's right to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of its employees."

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 wrongly 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. 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.

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.



Contact Info

Contact: Tom Warnke; 213-382-7600 ex 247;

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.