Federal Judge Says Lawsuit Seeking to Strike Down Oklahomas Antigay Adoption Law Can Proceed

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"The legislature singled out these families and tried to strip them of all legal protections, and that's unconstitutional."
December 8, 2004

(Oklahoma City, December 8, 2004) – In an order made public late yesterday, a federal judge gave the green light to Lambda Legal’s lawsuit that seeks to strike down Oklahoma’s antigay adoption law.

U. S. District Judge Robin Cauthron found that the lawsuit filed against Oklahoma’s Governor Brad Henry and Attorney General Drew Edmondson can go forward. The state had asked the court to dismiss the case.

In the ruling, Judge Cauthron said, “… if Governor Henry faithfully executes this Oklahoma law pursuant to his duty to do so, no state agency will recognize these Plaintiffs as a family and these Plaintiffs could be deprived of all the legal rights and obligations associated with that relationship."

“The judge clearly sees how dangerous this law is for families in Oklahoma. The legislature singled out these families and tried to strip them of all legal protections, and that’s unconstitutional,” said Brian Chase, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas. “The state’s attempt to make this case go away with a technicality didn’t work, and this ruling will move the case to the next step where the law must be struck down.”

The drastic law, passed hastily in the last legislative session, could be interpreted to nullify legal adoptions of children by same-sex couples from other states when they are in Oklahoma, Lambda Legal said.

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.

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. The law, 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.



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