The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that every state must recognize the parental rights of same-sex parents who legally adopt a child. The decision reverses an Alabama Supreme Court decision that refused to recognize the parental rights of a lesbian mother who adopted three children in Georgia in 2007.
The mother at the heart of the case – identified in court documents only as V.L. – adopted her partner’s biological children in Georgia in 2007. V.L. and her partner, E.L., were residing in Alabama when they split in 2011. At that time, V.L. sought joint custody, but when the custody case was brought before the Alabama court, the court rejected V.L.’s request, arguing Georgia’s sex-same adoption laws conflicted with Alabama’s and therefore did not recognize her as a legal parent.
According to the unanimous decision by the Supreme Court, however, “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.” Rather, Alabama must give “full faith and credit” to the Georgia court’s decision. The “full faith and credit” clause is a constitutional protection that requires states to honor judgments issued by courts in other states.
“The Supreme Court’s reversal of Alabama’s unprecedented decision to void an adoption from another state is a victory not only for our client but for thousands of adopted families,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura, who represented V.L in her case. “No adoptive parent or child should have to face the uncertainty and loss of being separated years after their adoption just because another state’s court disagrees with the law that was applied in their adoption.”