By Melanie Nathan. 2-20-10. Lambda Legal heads case in what will undoubtedly turn out to be landmark. The result – the US Constitution requires state officials across the country “to respect the parent-child relationships established by adoption decrees, regardless of the state where that decree is entered.”
Adoptive parents, Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith, who now live in San Diego, were living in Connecticut when they obtained an emergency adoption decree in New York state court to adopt the baby who was born in Shreveport, La. in 2005. The baby’s mother had transferred him to Adar and Smith’s care shortly after the boy’s birth.
A federal appeals court on Thursday ordered the state of Louisiana to issue an amended birth certificate for the child of the men stating that the State of Louisiana is ordered to put the names of both fathers on the new certificate.
The ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a 2008 ruling by US District Court Judge Jay Zainey. He ordered the Louisiana Office of Public Health and Vital Records and registrar Darlene W Smith, who had overtly discriminated against the parents, to supply an amended birth certificate for the boy that shows Adar and Smith as his parents, Courthouse News Service reports
Lambda Legal, a national civil rights organization based in Los Angeles, represented Adar and Smith sued on behalf of the couple in October 2007, saying Louisiana Vital Records Registrar Darlene Smith violated the U.S. Constitution in denying them an accurate birth certificate, which threatened the boy’s enrollment in a health care plan and treated him like a second-class citizen.
Clearly showing an aversion to the fact that the boy had two fathers, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, appealed the Zainey decision, arguing that state law wouldn’t have allowed such an adoption in the first place. The Vital Records office claimed that it would have supplied a birth certificate if just one of the parents had been listed in the New York record as adopting the boy. This shows the Office of vital records attempting to assert its own ideas as to
Adar and Smith are the adoptive parents under Louisiana law, wrote Judge Jacques Wiener Jr. for the panel of three, because the state “owes full faith and credit to the New York adoption decree that declares [the infant] to be the adopted child of Adar and Smith.” Because New York law allows adoption by unmarried couples, Louisiana had to follow those rules. The registrar have the discretion to refuse to make a new, correct birth certificate for a Louisiana-born child, when the New York adoption decree “indisputably satisfies” Louisiana requirements.
Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, called Caldwell’s decision to fight the birth certificate request discriminatory.
“It was shameful that Attorney General Caldwell took such extreme measures to deny a small child a proper birth certificate simply because he didn’t like the boy’s parents,” said Esman, in a statement. “Hopefully this decision will make him think twice before wasting taxpayer money to defend his anti-gay activism.”
PICTURE; Kenneth D. Upton, Jr. , Supervising Senior Staff Attorney
“We’re pleased the court agrees that it’s wrong to punish children just because the Registrar doesn’t like their parents.”