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Federal Court Of Appeals Rules That Gay Dads Are Not Entitled To Have Both Names On Their Child’s Birth Certificate

Discrimination remains alive and well in the South. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Louisiana law does not violate a child or parents’ constitutional rights by refusing to issue a birth certificate that has two men’s names listed as the fathers of the baby. Sounds disturbingly similar to the separate but equal doctrine used to justify racial segregation:

A gay couple who wanted both their names to appear on the birth certificate of the Louisiana child they adopted in New York have lost their latest round in federal court. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that a Louisiana registrar’s insistence that only one father’s name can go on the certificate does not violate the child’s right to equal protection under the law; nor does it deny legal recognition of the New York adoption by both men.

An attorney for the gay rights group Lamda Legal said the complex 72-page decision would have to be analyzed before a decision would be made on whether to appeal. “These are certainly the types of claims that might interest the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Ken Upton of Lamda Legal’s Dallas office.

In Louisiana, adopted children get new birth certificates with their new parents’ names on them. However, the state does not allow adoptions by unmarried couples. The state contends that putting both men’s names on the birth certificate would violate state law.

Adoptive parents Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith, former California residents now living in the Orlando, Fla., area, sued to get both their names on the certificate. A federal district court judge ruled in the men’s favor and a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit upheld the ruling last year. The state sought, and won, a rehearing by the full court – 16 judges heard arguments in January.

Chief Judge Edith Jones wrote for a nine-member majority, rejecting the men’s argument that Louisiana illegally treats adoptive children of unmarried parents differently from adoptive children with married parents. “This theory is unavailing in the face of the state’s rational preference for stable adoptive families, and the state’s decision to have its birth certificate requirements flow from its domestic adoption law,” Jones wrote.

Also at issue was whether the constitutional requirement that states give “full faith and credit” to each other’s laws required the inclusion of both men’s names on the birth certificate of the child. That, Jones said, does not mean that Louisiana must “confer particular benefits on unmarried adoptive parents contrary to its law.”

Two other judges concurred in part with the majority. Judge Jacques L. Wiener Jr., wrote the dissent, joined by four others. Saying New York recognizes both men as parents, Wiener wrote, “I have searched the Constitution in vain for a ‘Half Faith and Credit Clause.'” As for the equal protection argument, Wiener’s opinion noted that Louisiana puts the names of both unmarried parents on the birth certificates of children kept by their biological parents. He said the state has no legitimate interest in denying that same right to adoptive parents Adar and Smith.


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