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Sunday, July 21, 2024 | Back issues
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High Court Stays Ruling in Lesbian Custody Case

(CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday stayed a ruling by Alabama's highest court that said the state should not recognize a lesbian mother's adoption of three children in neighboring Georgia.

The requests for the stay by a petitioner identified only as "V.L." was presented to Justice Clarence Thomas and referred by him to his fellow justices.

The notice that the stay was granted pending disposition of the mother's petition for a writ of certiorari for the case was issued without a noted dissent.

V.L. had adopted the three children that her longtime partner, identified in court documents as E.L., had delivered after becoming pregnant from a donor.

The couple later moved to Alabama, where their relationship unraveled. E.L. has said she agrees with the Alabama Supreme Court's ruling. The children now range in age from 11 to 13.

A trial court originally recognized V.L.'s adoption and granted her visitation with the children, but E.L. appealed the decision.

The Court of Civil Appeals initially ruled that the adoption should not be respected in Alabama, but after V.L. and the guardian ad litems asked the court to rehear the case, the Court of Civil Appeals ruled that the adoption must be recognized. E.L. then sought review by the Alabama Supreme Court.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled V.L.'s adoption of the children was null and void because Georgia court's violated their own state laws in granting the adoptions the woman shared with her former partner.

V.L. filed her petition for a writ of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 16, 2015.

As is their custom, the justices did not explain why they took up the case. They said in the event V.L.'s petition for a writ of certiorari is denied, the stay will terminate automatically. If, however, a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay will remain in effect until a decision is rendered by the court.

In a written statement released through the national Center for Lesbian Rights, which is providing her legal representation, V.L. said, "I'm overjoyed that my children and I will be able to be together again."

"It's been so long - more time that I ever thought I could bear - since we have been able to be together and just do the everyday things that parents do with their children ... This terrible Alabama decision has hurt my family and will hurt so many " other families if it is not corrected."

In the same statement, NCLR Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura also expressed a sense of relief.

"For any adoptive parent, it would be unthinkable that their adoption could be invalidated years later and that they could be separated from their children for months while they fought to be recognized," Sakimura said. "V.L. and her children have already endured what no parent or child should ever have to experience."

Attorneys Marc Hearron, Ruth Borenstein, and Seth Lloyd, of the Morrison & Foerster law firm, represent the court-appointed guardian ad litem in the case, Tobie Smith.

In a written statement supplied by the firm, Smith said he is delighted by the Supreme Court's decision to issue a stay.

This is wonderful news for the three children in this case, who, after knowing their adoptive mother as their parent for their whole lives, have had that cornerstone relationship disturbed by this case," Smith said. "The Supreme Court's stay will allow them to resume visiting with their mother, and the fact that it comes shortly before the holidays should make that time even more meaningful for them."

Representatives for E.L. could not immediately be reached for comment.

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