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January 7, 2009

Louisiana Birth Certificate Must Recognize Gay Dads

A gay couple in San Diego won a court fight in Louisiana over the birth certificate of a child they adopted in New York. Huh? It's not as complicated as it sounds, and it doesn't really matter where the gay dads live -- the issue is whether the state of Louisiana, where the child was born, should be required to change the child's birth certificate to identify his legal parents when those parents are both men.

The answer is, obviously, yes -- but when it comes to same-sex couples and parenting, nothing is obvious. Getting amended birth certificates after adoptions are completed has been a nuisance for many years in conservative states. The problem is that while LGBT parents may live in states that permit same-sex adoptions, a birth certificate is connected to the state where a child is born, and that state has control of the official document forever.

In this case, the two dads adopted a child who was born in Louisiana. The adoption took place in April 2006 in New York, where the men lived. After the adoption was completed, they wrote to the Louisiana Vital Records Registry and asked for an amended birth certificate showing their names as parents. All of this was standard operating procedure. But the director of the vital records office wrote back to them, saying that she could not issue a birth certificate that listed unmarried adoptive parents, as doing so would violate Louisiana's state public policy.

The men sued, and the federal district court agreed with them, citing the constitutional doctrine of "full faith and credit," which requires states to give full effect to judgments rendered in other states. The court concluded that there was no public policy exception to the full faith and credit clause, and ordered the state to issue the new birth certificate.

The state says it will appeal the decision.

December 19, 2008

Thanks for The Foster Care, Now Go Away

In addition to not liking anti-gay amendments, I'd venture to say on behalf of the LGBT community that we also don't like it when the state "allows" us to take care of its at-risk children when they are in greatest need, and then disqualifies us from becoming full legal parents to those children when we seek to take on that important responsibility.

At least one West Virginia couple doesn't like it, that's for sure. Kathryn Kutil and Cheryl Hess are appealing a judge's order denying them the right to adopt the 11-month-old baby girl they've been raising since birth, when the drug-addicted infant was placed with them for foster care. The same judge who placed the child with the couple when it was felt that they could "provide appropriate and suitable foster care," now states that he feels that "the best interest of a child is to be raised by a traditional family, mother and father."

West Virginia allows adoption by single people and couples. There's no prohibition on adoption by lesbian and gay singles or couples.

After quite a bit of back and forth in this case, it was determined that the baby could stay with the couple until the West Virginia Supreme Court rules on the case. Oral argument is scheduled for March 11, and we'll keep you posted.

November 25, 2008

Florida Gay Adoption Ban Unconstitutional

And about time, too! For 31 years, Florida has had a law prohibiting lesbian and gay parents from adopting children. Today, a Florida Circuit Court judge ruled that the ban is unconstitutional, violates children's equal protection rights, and is not supported by any rational basis.

The judge noted that there is no legal or scientific reason for preventing gay parents from adopting, despite the state's efforts to use old stereotypes (more drug use, less stable relationships) to persuade her that gay people are ineffective parents. To the contrary, the judge noted, "It is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person's ability to parent."

In this belief she is joined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and American Psychiatric Association, all of which support allowing LGBT people to adopt children.

The state says it will appeal the decision, so the issue may end up in front of the Florida Superme Court.