Supreme Court Rejects Gay Couple's Adopted Son Birth Certificate Change Appeal

 @DanRivoli
on October 11 2011 3:07 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to take a case from the same-sex parents of an adopted child seeking to be listed as fathers on their son's Louisiana birth certificate.

Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith tried to get their names listed as parents on an amended birth certificate for their son, who was born in Louisiana and adopted in New York.

But the Supreme Court justices refused to hear the case, allowing a lower appellate court ruling against Adar and Smith to stand.

After adopting their son, called J.C. in court filings, in 2006, Adar and Smith attempted to get an amended birth certificate that Louisiana offers to parents of children born in the state but adopted elsewhere in the U.S. But as a gay unmarried couple, a Louisiana State registrar refused to list both men as the boy's father, as single adults cannot legally adopt children in the state.

Suit Filed in 2007

The couple sued in 2007, arguing that Louisiana must respect a New York judge's adoption decree under the U.S. Constitution and that the state violated their child's rights to equal protection under the law.

The ruling from all of the judges sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit--called an en banc hearing--overturned prior court rulings in favor of Adar and Smith. The couple petitioned the Supreme Court to hear its appeal of the Fifth Circuit decision.

This [Supreme Court] decision leaves adopted children and their parents vulnerable in their interactions with officials from other states, said Kenneth D. Upton, a senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal, a LGBT legal group that represented Adar and Smith. More particularly, this decision leaves a child without an accurate birth certificate listing both his parents.

A majority of all the judges on the Fifth Circuit ruled that the U.S. Constitution did not require Louisiana to accept New York's adoption decree and that the child's equal protection rights were not violated. Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause--binding states to follow judicial proceedings elsewhere--only forces Louisiana to recognize the New York adoption decree in court cases.

The [Louisiana] registrar concedes it is bound by the New York adoption decree, such that the parental relationship of Adar and Smith with Infant J cannot be relitigated in Louisiana, the Fifth Circuit majority opinion said. That point is not at issue here. There is no legal basis on which to conclude that failure to issue a revised birth certificate denies 'recognition' to the New York adoption decree.

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell wanted the Supreme Court to reject the couple's petition, arguing that society's view of families was changing and that these issues will arise again, according to Reuters.

 

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