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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 12, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 32
Experts urge Supreme Court to address discrimination against unmarried adoptive parents
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Experts urge Supreme Court to address discrimination against unmarried adoptive parents

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On August 9, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP filed an amicus asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court's decision that Louisiana can discriminate against children born in Louisiana and adopted by unmarried parents in other states by refusing to issue them accurate birth certificates.

According to NCLR officials, the brief urges the Court to take this case because denying these children an accurate birth certificate that certifies their legal identity and parentage denies them equal protection and violates the constitutional requirement that every state give 'full faith and credit' to actions of other states.

'No child should ever be treated differently or denied access to proof of their legal identity in violation of well-established federal constitutional protections because their parents are unmarried,' said University of California, Berkeley School of Law professor Joan Heifetz Hollinger. 'Decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled that disadvantaging children based on the marital status of their parents violates equal protection.'

Oren Adar and Mickey Smith adopted their son, who was born in Louisiana, in 2006 in New York. The Louisiana state registrar, Darlene Smith, refused to issue an amended birth certificate reflecting the adoptive parents' names even though Louisiana law requires the registrar to provide amended birth certificates to all adopted children. Smith claimed that she would not include both adopted parents' names on an amended birth certificate if the child was adopted by unmarried parents in another state.

Lambda Legal filed suit on behalf of Adar and Smith in October 2007, saying that the Registrar violated the Full Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to recognize the New York adoption decree, and that denying a birth certificate only to children of unmarried parents violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

In 2008, U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey ordered the registrar to recognize the child's adoption under the Full Faith and Credit clause and issue an amended birth certificate identifying both Oren Adar and Mickey Smith as the child's parents. In 2010, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. The Louisiana attorney general then requested a rehearing by the full 5th Circuit, which reversed the two prior rulings on April 12, 2011, and held that the registrar was not subject to suit in federal court for alleged violations of the Full Faith and Credit clause and could refuse to issue accurate birth certificates only to children adopted by unmarried parents.

NCLR and Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP represent professors of family law, constitutional law, and conflict of laws, and drafters of uniform laws who support the constitutional rights of adopted children to be treated equally, regardless of the marital status of their parents, and to have their adoptions fully recognized in every state.

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