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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

No Rehearing of State Law’s Effect on Gay Dads

(CN) - A gay couple cannot fight in the Supreme Court to have both of their names listed as fathers of the son they adopted from Louisiana.

The high court declined Tuesday to take up the case, leaving intact the April 2011 decision of the full 5th Circuit.

Mickey Ray Smith and Oren Adar asked the Louisiana registrar to supplant their names on the birth certificate of their adopted son, Infant J, who was born in Shreveport, La., in 2006. Adar and Smith were living in Connecticut when they obtained an emergency adoption decree in a New York state court.

But Louisiana registrar Darlene Smith refused to issue a new birth certificate listing them as their parents, citing state laws barring unmarried couples from adopting children in Louisiana. Since single-parent adoption is legal, she offered to list just one of the men as the child's parent.

A federal judge initially ruled, and the 5th Circuit affirmed, that Smith had violated the fathers' constitutional rights under the Full Faith and Credit Clause. But that decision unraveled with the full circuit's ruling.

The 26-page majority decision, which is followed by 40 pages of concurring and dissenting opinions, says Louisiana law "attempts neither to encourage marriage nor to discourage behavior deemed immoral ... but rather to ensure stable environments for adopted children." For that reason, Smith's refusal to issue the birth certificate conformed to Louisiana law.

Much of the court's decision stems from the assertion that state law has no duty to operate according to the law as it is observed by another state.

Citing research by Child Trends, conducted with support from the Bush administration marriage initiative, the circuit majority said "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."

Dissenting judges criticized the court, however, for creating a circuit split.

In their petition to the high court, Infant J's fathers claimed that Louisiana has an unconstitutional policy against adoption by unmarried couples.

Under Louisiana law, all children born in the state, if adopted, are entitled to an amended birth certificate showing their adoptive parents.

"In Louisiana, however, the registrar has a policy and practice of refusing to issue accurate amended birth certificates to those Louisiana-born children who have been legally adopted in a court proceeding in a sister state but whose adoptive parents are not legally married," the couple's petition states.

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