This decision, by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, will have ramifications beyond just the fathers of this child:
In 2006, Oren Adar and Mickey Smith made an addition to their family. While living in New York, they adopted a child, a toddler who was born in Shreveport. “We’re both his parents,” Adar said. The two legally adopted the child, but when they tried to get a birth certificate with both of their names as listed as “parents” on it in Louisiana, the state’s Registrar of Vital Statistics told them no. I was really angry. Really, really angry,” said Adar.
“Louisiana has very clear laws about who can adopt children. If you want to adopt a child as a single person, you can do that. If you want to adopt a child as a couple, you can do that, but only if you’re married,” said Kyle Duncan, chief of appeals for the Louisiana Department of Justice, the agency representing the Louisiana Registrar of Vital Statistics in court. “This case is not an adoption case. This child is already adopted. This child already has a parent/child relationship established with both parents and it has to be respected when they go anywhere in the United States,” said attorney Ken Upton, who is representing the couple in conjunction with the Lambda Legal Foundation.
A U.S. Federal District judge ruled recently that the state had to issue the birth certificate with both names on it, essentially recognizing the New York adoption. Representing Louisiana, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell appealed. Both sides made their case before the federal appeals court Wednesday morning.
“We want children adopting into a joint relationship that is stable, and marriage is a good way of recognizing stability in relationships,” Duncan said, about the state’s adoption laws. But the couple’s attorney argued that Louisiana’s law prevented the child, not the parents, from having the same document as every other child, a birth certificate with both parents listed on it. “If states are entitled to carve out little exceptions for some children because they don’t like their parents, it really does damage to the kids,” Upton said.
If Messrs. Adar and Smith are successful, then Louisiana would be forced to recognize out-of-state adoptions by unmarried couples. It would also open the door for same-sex couples to work with gestational carriers in otherwise unfriendly states as they would be obligated to give full faith and credit to a Co-Parent or Second Parent Adoption judgment and be thus be required to issue an amended birth certificate with the couple’s names on it. Currently, gay parents are typically limited to working with surrogates who reside in states where the state Registrar of Vital Statistics will honor an out-of-state Second Parent Adoption and be willing to issue an amended birth certificate with both dads (or moms) names on it. Similar lawsuits have been successful in Oklahoma, Texas and Mississippi.