In a victory for LGBT groups, eight justices of the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed an Alabama court’s refusal to recognize a lesbian adoption.
According to USA Today, a partner biologically gave birth to three children — a 13-year-old and a set of 11-year-old twins. The other partner formally adopted the kids in Georgia, where the same-sex couple had temporary residence. When they separated after 16 years together, the biological mother moved to Alabama with the kids and prevented her former partner from seeing the kids.
An Alabama court supported the birth mother, refusing to recognize the other lesbian partner as a parent, declaring the adoption null and void by saying that the Georgia adoption law “did not allow a non-spouse to adopt a child without first terminating the parental rights of the current parents.”
On Monday, the U.S. justices, in an unsigned petition, said the lower court “erred in refusing to grant judgment, full faith and credit.” The justices said the court went too far trying to overturn a lesbian mother’s legal adoption of her partner’s kids by ruling that the adoption rights were granted to the lesbian couple in Georgia and therefore had no validity in Alabama.
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) March 8, 2016
“I have been my children’s mother in every way for their whole lives. I thought that adopting them meant that we would be together always, When the Alabama court said my adoption was invalid and I wasn’t their mother, I didn’t think I could go on. The Supreme Court has done what’s right for my family,” the noncustodial parent said.
The case had been closely monitored by LGBT advocates as a litmus test for same-sex adoption rights. More than half of the states in the U.S. allow adoption rights for same-sex couples, but these rights, however, have been jeopardized by movement across state lines. LGBT advocates had warned the Alabama court ruling could wreak havoc if it had been allowed to stand. Alabama is one of only a few states in the U.S. that has remained hostile to the rights of same-sex partners, even when duly acknowledged by the courts.
In January 2015, a federal judge struck down Alabama’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, but the state supreme court chief wrote a letter to the governor vowing to enforce the ban. In the summer of 2015, state officials defied the Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex marriages were constitutional until a slew of lawsuits forced their hand.
In the same vein, Alabama’s state court had previously ruled that state laws did not permit same-sex adoptions by an unmarried parent without biological connections. Until the Supreme Court justices refuted the ruling by asserting that “a state may not disregard the judgment of a sister state because it disagrees with the reasoning underlying the judgment or deems it to be wrong on the merits.”
The Supreme Court has ruled Alabama must recognize a lesbian mother’s adoption rights https://t.co/heVASsiS3a
— Mic (@micnews) March 7, 2016
National Center for Lesbian Rights Family Director Cathy Sakimura, who represented the noncustodial parent, hailed the apex court’s decision as a victory for many families. She said it was wrong for a state court to oppose any law applied in the adoption of children in a same-sex relationship. She said parents separated from children they had legally adopted was a pain that was simply too much to bare. Currently, more than 16,000 same-sex couples are raising 22,000 adopted children in the U.S.
Vice President of the Constitutional Accountability Center Judith Schaeffer agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s stance in reaffirming family rights and upturning the decision of the Alabama state court for ignoring the constitution.
“In fact the Alabama court’s ruling was so contrary to the constitution that the Supreme Court did not even need a briefing and oral argument to reverse it,” Schaeffer released in a statement.
This development could have far-reaching implications for other states that continue to play hard-ball and deny adoption to same-sex couples.
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