Fifth Circuit strikes order to put names of gay adoptive parents on birth certificate

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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] en banc against same-sex adoptive parents seeking an amended Louisiana birth certificate that listed both unmarried men as the parents of the child. In 2006, Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith adopted their child in New York, where unmarried couples can legally adopt [JURIST report]. The child was born in Louisiana, and the state refused to issue a birth certificate naming both fathers. The couple brought suit alleging Louisiana had violated the Full Faith and Credit Clause and the Equal Protection Clause [Cornell LII backgrounders] of the US Constitution. Rejecting the Full Faith and Credit argument, the court clarified that the clause only has compelling effects on state courts and not state officials. Even if the situation were otherwise, the court explained:

The Full Faith and Credit Clause was enacted to preclude the same matters being relitigated in different states as recalcitrant parties evade unfavorable judgments by moving elsewhere. It was never intended to allow one state to dictate the manner in which another state protects its populace. Similarly, the full faith and credit clause does not oblige Louisiana to confer particular benefits on unmarried adoptive parents contrary to its law. Forum state law governs the incidental benefits of a foreign judgment. In this case, Louisiana does not permit any unmarried couples-whether adopting out-of state or in-state-to obtain revised birth certificates with both parents’ names on them.

The Court quickly disposed of the Equal Protection claim, finding that “adoption is not a fundamental right[,] … Louisiana has a legitimate interest in encouraging a stable and nurturing environment for the education and socialization of its adopted children, … [and] Louisiana may rationally conclude that having parenthood focused on a married couple or single individual-not on the freely severable relationship of unmarried partners-furthers the interests of adopted children.”

The ruling overturns a prior decision [JURIST report] in February by a panel of three judges from the Fifth Circuit ordering that the revised birth certificate be issued. Lambda Legal [advocacy website], which represented Adar and Smith, successfully argued a similar case [JURIST report] in 2007, when the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit struck down an amendment [press release] to the Oklahoma Constitution that would have prevented the state from recognizing adoptions by gay parents that were finalized in other US or foreign jurisdictions. Same-sex adoptive parents have recently been involved in numerous legal battles [JURIST news archive]. Earlier this month, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a ban on adoptions [JURIST report] by same-sex couples, finding the ban to be a violation of the state constitution. In September, a Florida appellate court struck down a similar law [JURIST report], finding that it failed rational basis review and violated the state constitution’s equal protection clause.

Read more detail on JURIST – Paper Chase

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