Sunday, December 28, 2008

NEW ORLEANS | A gay couple in California have won a federal court ruling that orders Louisiana to put the names of both men on their adopted son’s birth certificate despite state law against unmarried adoption.

The facts are so clear that no trial is needed, wrote U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey.

Louisiana’s Office of Vital Records must give full faith and credit to the New York state court in which Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith adopted the boy, the judge ruled last week. The two gay men lived in New York at the time of the 2006 adoption, but have since moved to San Diego. The boy was born in Louisiana.

The Louisiana office had refused to issue a birth certificate listing both as the boy’s legal parents. Louisiana law does not let two unmarried people adopt a child together, regardless of sex, wrote Carol L. Haynes, representing the state health department and registrar Darlene W. Smith.

“What a great Christmas present for these guys,” said Kenneth D. Upton Jr., supervising senior staff lawyer for Lambda Legal and attorney for the two men.

Mr. Upton told the Associated Press that he hopes to get a birth certificate in the coming week, but doesn’t know whether Louisiana will appeal.

The state Attorney General’s Office will look into the matter next week, said Tammi Arender Herring, spokeswoman for Attorney General James Caldwell.

Judge Zainey, a 2002 appointee of President Bush, wrote that Louisiana law requires a new certificate when it gets an adoption decree, and the law does not include any limits or restrictions.

The state’s arguments would make the adoption law’s “plain language … meaningless by reading in restrictions and requirements that simply are not present in the text of the statute,” he wrote.

In the national debate over gay marriage, one often-cited scenario involves a federal court using similar logic to require states that bar such unions to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, as all states now do with each other’s marriages under the federal Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause.

Such a federal ruling would effectively impose same-sex marriage on the entire nation, and homosexual activists celebrated this decision as requiring every state to recognize any other state’s gay adoptions.

“This sends a strong message to state officials across the country that the Constitution requires them to respect the parent-child relationships established by adoption decrees, regardless of the state where the decree is entered,” Mr. Upton said.

Mr. Adar and Mr. Smith say they have practical and emotional reasons for wanting both of their names on the birth certificate of the Louisiana-born boy, identified only as “J.C. A.-S.”

Because Mr. Smith’s name wasn’t on the document, his employer initially refused to enroll the child on his insurance, Mr. Smith, an accountant, wrote in a sworn statement.

The administrator eventually agreed to cover the boy, but “I am forced to go through this process each and every year” to keep him insured, Mr. Smith wrote.

Mr. Adar said the three often travel, and — because J. is black, and they are white — an airline worker once stopped them, thinking that they were kidnapping the child. “Every time we fly, we fear this could happen again,” he wrote.

J. was born about eight weeks prematurely in Shreveport, La., in late 2005. He spent his first month in the hospital, and weighed 5 pounds when his mother gave him to Mr. Adar and Mr. Smith that December, according to Mr. Adar’s statement. The adoption was made final April 27, 2006, their lawsuit states.

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