Federal court orders Louisiana registrar to recognize out-of-state adoption

Lambda Legal reports that a U.S. District Court judge in Louisiana has ordered the state registrar to honor the New York adoption of a baby boy by a same-sex couple. The judge said failure to do so violated the U.S. Constitution.

Lambda Legal represented Oren Adar and Mickey Smith, a gay couple who adopted their Louisiana-born son in 2006 in a New York court, where a judge issued an adoption decree. When Smith attempted get a new birth certificate for their child, in part so he could add his son to his health insurance, the office of State Registrar Darlene Smith told him that Louisiana does not recognize adoption by unmarried parents and so could not issue it.

Lambda Legal filed suit on behalf of Adar and Smith in October, 2007, saying that the registrar was violating the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to recognize the New York adoption. The Constitution holds that judgments and orders issued by a court in one state are legally binding in other states as well. The Louisiana attorney general disagreed, and advised the registrar that she did not have to honor an adoption from another state that would not have been granted under Louisiana law had the couple lived and adopted there.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey ruled against the registrar and issued a summary judgment ordering her to issue a new birth certificate identifying both Oren Adar and Mickey Smith as the boy’s parents.

“It’s been a long three years, but clearly we’re very happy,” said Adar, who now lives with Smith and their son in San Diego. “As an adopted child myself, I understand the need to feel like you belong. I remember as a child wanting to see my own birth certificate and to see my parents listed because it gave me a sense of belonging, of identity and of dignity. I want our child to see Mickey’s name and my name as parents on his birth certificate.”

“This sends a strong message to state officials across the country that the Constitution requires them to respect the parent-child relationships established by adoptions decrees regardless of the state where the decree is entered,” said Ken Upton, supervising senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal. “State officials may not punish children by denying them a birth certificate simply because they disapprove of their parents.”