Married Couple Challenge|Alabama’s ‘Sanctity Laws’

MOBILE, Ala. (CN) – Alabama used its unconstitutional “Sanctity Laws” to deny legally married women the right to adopt one of the women’s biological child, the longtime couple claim in Federal Court.
     Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand sued Gov. Robert Bentley and other state officials, challenging their use of the state’s Sanctity Laws to deny the adoption.
     Searcy and McKeand have been a couple for 14 years and were married in California in 2008.
     Their son, co-plaintiff K.S., was born to McKeand in 2005. Both women have cared for him since birth. The boy’s biological father, a sperm donor and friend of McKeand and Searcy, was not listed as father on K.S.’s birth certificate, has waived and terminated all parental rights, and consents to the adoption of K.S. by McKeand and Searcy, according to the complaint.
     Searcy filed a petition on Dec. 29, 2011, to adopt K.S. pursuant to Alabama law, which states that “any person may adopt his or her spouse’s child according to the provisions of this chapter.”
     Defendant Don Davis, probate court judge in Mobile County, denied the petition in April 2012, claiming that Searcy is not McKeand’s spouse in Alabama.
     Searcy appealed to the state supreme court, which rejected the appeal in October 2012.
     At issue is the constitutionality of Alabama’s Sanctity Laws, stemming from Amendment 774, the “Sanctity of Marriage Amendment” in the state constitution, which defines marriage as a unique relationship between a man and a woman.
     Those laws state: “The State of Alabama shall not recognize as valid any marriage of parties of the same sex that occurred or was alleged to have occurred as a result of the law of any jurisdiction regardless of whether a marriage license was issued.”
     The plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of these laws within the context of step-parent adoption, asserting that Searcy is allowed to adopt K.S. because “any person may adopt his or her spouse’s child. Ala. Code § 26-10A-27 (1975). Searcy is the spouse of McKeand, and K.S. is McKeand’s biological child.”
     Alabama’s denial also violates the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause: “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state,” the lawsuit states.
     Searcy and McKeand claim that Alabama’s Sanctity Laws are arbitrary and capricious, and create a second-class group of citizens, in violation of the 14th Amendment.
     “The purpose of the Sanctity Laws is to impose inequality for reasons other than legitimate governmental purposes, including the denial of the step-parent adoption at issue in this case,” the complaint states. “The State of Alabama has no legitimate reason to summarily deny step-parent adoptions on the basis of the parents’ sexuality.”
     The plaintiffs seek an injunction requiring Alabama to recognize their marriage, declaratory judgment that the state’s Sanctity Laws are unconstitutional, and they want the adoption granted, and costs.
     They are represented by Christine Hernandez and David Kennedy.

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