Lower court ruled state must issue birth certificate to same-sex adoptive
parents of baby boy
(New Orleans, October 7, 2009) – A three-member panel of federal judges in
the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard today from attorneys on both sides
regarding Lambda Legal’s lawsuit against the Louisiana Registrar of Vital
Statistics for refusing to respect the New York adoption by a same-sex
couple of a Louisiana-born baby boy.
"Decades ago, our U.S. Supreme Court rejected as unconstitutional the
premise that a state may inflict harm on children solely as a way to
express disapproval of their parents,” Ken Upton, Supervising Senior Staff
Attorney for Lambda Legal, told the court. "Ironically, one of the
earliest of those cases was against the State of Louisiana. The Registrar's policy
appears to be a throwback to that long discredited conduct."
Lambda Legal represents San Diego residents Oren Adar and Mickey Smith in
their case against Louisiana State Registrar Darlene Smith. Adar and Smith
are a gay couple who adopted their Louisiana-born son in 2006 in a New
York, where a judge issued an adoption decree. When the couple attempted
to get a new birth certificate for their child, in part so Smith could add
his son to his health insurance, the registrar’s office told him that
Louisiana does not recognize adoption by unmarried parents and so could not
"You really have to wonder why the attorney general is fighting this so
doggedly," said Upton. "The U.S. Constitution spells out that state
officials must respect final judgments entered in other states. This
includes adoption decrees. "
Lambda Legal filed suit on behalf of Adar and Smith in October 2007, saying
that the registrar was violating the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the
U.S. Constitution by refusing to recognize the New York adoption. The
Constitution requires that judgments and orders issued by a court in one
state be legally binding in other states as well. The Louisiana attorney
general disagreed, and advised the registrar that she did not have to honor
an adoption from another state that would not have been granted under
Louisiana law had the couple lived and adopted there. Last December, U.S.
District Judge Jay Zainey ruled against the registrar and issued a summary
judgment ordering her to issue a new birth certificate identifying both
Oren Adar and Mickey Smith as the boy’s parents, saying her continued
failure to do so violated the U.S. Constitution. The attorney general
appealed the case.
Upton also represented Lambda Legal before the 10th Circuit in Finstuen v.
Crutcher, another case involving same-sex couples with adopted children.
The court rejected the Oklahoma Department of Health’s challenge to a
lower court decision striking down an Oklahoma law so extreme that it
threatened to make children adopted by same-sex couples in other states
legal orphans when the families are in Oklahoma. The ruling is important
not only in Oklahoma, but also to families across the United States,
including in Seattle and Houston, home to two of the families who joined in
Kenneth D. Upton, Jr., Supervising Senior Staff Attorney is handling the
case for Lambda Legal. He is joined by Regina O. Matthews and Spencer R.
Doody of Martzell & Bickford in New Orleans. The case is Adar v. Smith.