Metro Weekly

SCOTUS reverses Alabama’s refusal to recognize same-sex adoption

Supreme Court says Alabama should have recognized legal Georgia adoption in ongoing custody dispute

U.S. Supreme Court - Credit: Ian Koski/flickr
U.S. Supreme Court – Credit: Ian Koski/flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday reversed an Alabama Supreme Court decision refusing to recognize a lesbian mother’s legal adoption of her three children in Georgia. In December, the high court had previously placed a stay on the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision, thereby allowing the woman to have visitation rights while the court considered her case.

“The Georgia judgment appears on its face to have been issued by a court with jurisdiction, and there is no established Georgia law to the contrary. It follows that the Alabama Supreme Court erred in refusing to grant that judgment full faith and credit,” the court wrote in its opinion. “…The judgment of the Alabama Supreme Court is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.”

V.L.. the adoptive mother issued a statement celebrating the restoration of her full parental rights, saying she was “overjoyed” that the Supreme Court had reversed the Alabama decision.

“I have been my children’s mother in every way for their whole lives. I thought that adopting them meant that we would be able to be together always,” V.L. said. “When the Alabama court said my adoption was invalid and I wasn’t their mother, I didn’t think I could go on. The Supreme Court has done what’s right for my family.”

V.L. had previously been in a long-term relationship with her partner, E.L from 1995 to 2011. The couple decided to have three children together, via donor insemination. To ensure that both women would have parental rights, V.L., as the non-biological mother, adopted the three children legally in Georgia in 2007, with E.L.’s support and written consent. But when the couple broke up, E.L. prevented V.L. from seeing the children by arguing that the Georgia adoption was invalid in Alabama, where they live.

In September 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an order refusing to recognize V.L.’s Georgia adoption and declaring it to be “void.” V.L.’s legal team, which includes lawyers from the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), appealed the decision, arguing that the Alabama Supreme Court had broken with a century of precedent by refusing to honor a court judgment from another state. V.L.’s attorneys also argued that under the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, states are required to respect court judgments, including adoption orders, 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,” Cathy Sakimura, the family law director for NCLR said in a statement. “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.”

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