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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 15, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 28
Lambda Legal asks Supremes to hear Louisiana adoption case
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Lambda Legal asks Supremes to hear Louisiana adoption case

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Lambda Legal has filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of a same-sex couple seeking an accurate birth certificate for their adopted son.

The petition asking for a writ of certiorari - a legal notice that the U.S. Supreme Court will review the case - was filed on July 11.

Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith are a same-sex couple now living with their son in Orlando, Florida.

The son was born in 2005 in Louisiana, but they adopted him through a New York state court. The adoption was made final on April 27, 2006, according to court documents.

The problem is that the state of Louisiana has refused to recognize the adoption and issue a birth certificate listing both fathers as the boy's parents.

'By treating adopted children whose parents are unmarried worse than other adopted children, Louisiana violates two well-established federal constitutional protections, both of which embody principles of equal treatment and unify us as a nation,' said Kenneth D. Upton, a senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal.

'First, the constitution mandates that Louisiana, like every other state, must treat all out-of-state adoption judgments equally.

'Second, Louisiana may not treat adopted children themselves differently based on the marital status of their legal parents.

'We have long since abandoned the notion that the government can punish children to express disapproval of their parents or their families. The state of Louisiana cannot withhold a birth certificate for this child simply because it doesn't like who his parents are.'

Had Adar and Smith been a married opposite-sex couple who adopted a Louisiana-born child and sought to have his birth certificate reflect his new parents, the state of Louisiana would have complied.

But because they are unmarried - and must remain unmarried in the eyes of the state of Louisiana because they are a same-sex couple - the adoption is not valid in Louisiana law.

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Campbell advised Vital Records Registrar Darlene Smith that she did not have to honor an adoption from New York that would not have been granted under Louisiana law, and need not change the boy's birth certificate.

Lambda Legal sued on behalf of Adar and Smith in October 2007, to force Louisiana officials to issue a corrected birth certificate.

Adar and Smith won at their initial federal court trial in 2009, but the Louisiana attorney general appealed the decision.

In 2010, they won again. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the lower court's judgment.

The Louisiana Attorney General then requested a rehearing by the full Court of Appeals.

On April 12, the full Fifth Circuit Court ruled that the state of Louisiana's refusal to list both parents 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.

With their July 11 petition, Lambda Legal has now asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.

In a statement issued on July 11, Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart noted that his organization had litigated the same issue in other states.

'We've won this fight before,' Cathcart wrote.

'Lambda Legal represented a same-sex couple who adopted a child in California and later moved to Oklahoma. The Oklahoma legislature actually passed a law refusing to recognize any out-of-state adoption by a same-sex couple. Because of our legal challenge, that law was found unconstitutional by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and struck down.'

'This is a fight for the protection and well-being of children,' Cathcart continued. 'It is also a fight to uphold core constitutional principles that hold this nation together. We've been fighting for Oren and Mickey and their son for four years - they won't give up, and neither will we.'

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