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BREAKING: Same-sex adoption case from Alabama reaches US Supreme Court

Adoption

Alabama state sealFrom an emailed press release by the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

Alabama Mother Asks Supreme Court to Review Unprecedented Alabama Refusal to Recognize a Same-Sex Parent Adoption from Another State

Mother Also Asks Supreme Court to Stay Alabama Decision So She Can Have Visitation with Her Children for the First Time Since April

(Birmingham, AL, November 16, 2015)—Today, a lesbian mother in Alabama asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review an Alabama Supreme Court decision refusing to recognize her as an adoptive parent of her three children and holding that Alabama does not have to recognize second-parent adoptions granted by Georgia courts. The mother also asked the Supreme Court for an emergency order permitting her to visit her children while her appeal is pending. As a result of an earlier Alabama order, she has not had visitation with her children—ages 12, 10, and 10—for nearly seven months, even though she has raised them from their birth.

In her request, V.L. the adoptive mother, notes that the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision is unprecedented. Before this ruling, no state supreme court has refused to recognize a same-sex parent’s adoption from another state—or any out-of-state adoption—based on a disagreement with how the court issuing the adoption interpreted its own adoption laws. Under the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, states are required to respect court judgments, including adoption orders, issued by courts in other states. V.L.’s request says “this Court’s review of the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision is urgently needed” because “the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision flouts a century of precedent on the Full Faith and Credit Clause and will have a devastating impact on Alabama adoptive families.”

V.L and E.L. were in a long-term same-sex relationship in which they planned and raised three children together, using donor insemination. To ensure that both had secure parental rights, V.L., the non-biological mother, adopted the couples’ three children in Georgia in 2007, with E.L.’s support and written consent. When the two later broke up, E.L. kept V.L. from seeing the children, fighting her request for visitation, and arguing that the Georgia adoption was invalid in Alabama, where they live.

On September 18, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an order refusing to recognize V.L.’s Georgia adoption and declaring that it is “void.” Even though V.L. raised the children from birth and both women participated in the adoption hearing and consented to the adoption, the Court broke with more than a century of precedent requiring states to honor court judgments from other states. Disregarding this clear precedent, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Alabama can treat the adoption as void based on the Alabama Supreme Court’s view that the Georgia court should not have granted the adoption in 2007.

The children’s Guardian Ad Litem will also file a motion to allow the children to visit V.L. pending the appeal, arguing that the children will be harmed if they are not allowed to have visitation with V.L.

V.L is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Adam Unikowsky and Paul Smith of Jenner & Block, and Alabama attorneys Heather Fann of Boyd, Fernambucq, Dunn & Fann, P.C., and Traci Vella of Vella & King, Attorneys at Law.

The children’s Guardian Ad Litem is Tobie J. Smith of the Legal Aid Society of Birmingham, who is represented by Marc Hearron of Morrison & Foerster LLP.

“The Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” said NCLR Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura. “The Constitution requires every state to give full faith and credit to adoptions granted by courts in other states, regardless of whether it agrees with another state’s adoption policy or thinks the adoption was wrongly granted. The Alabama Supreme Court had no legal ability to second-guess the Georgia court’s judgment. As a result of that serious constitutional violation, the children in this case have been wrongly separated from one of their parents, and the stability of adoption judgments across the country has been called into question. We are hopeful the Court will review this unprecedented decision and ensure that other states do not go down this dangerous and unlawful path.”

“I love my children more than anything,” said V.L. “I haven’t had visitation with my kids since April, and there isn’t a moment that goes by that I don’t think about them and pray that we’ll be able to be together again soon. I just want to hold them and feel their arms around me. No parent and child should ever be separated because a court refuses to follow the law and recognize adoptions from other states. I adopted my children more than eight years ago to be sure that I could always protect them. This is a terrible decision that is hurting my family and will hurt so many other families if it is not corrected.”

The Alabama Supreme Court has a long history of issuing decisions that discriminate against LGBT people. In 2002, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who joined a majority opinion denying custody to a lesbian mother, wrote a concurring opinion stating that “the homosexual conduct of a parent … creates a strong presumption of unfitness that alone is sufficient justification for denying that parent custody of his or her own children or prohibiting the adoption of the children of others.” Ex Parte H.H., 830 So.2d 21, 26 (Ala. 2002) (Moore, C.J., concurring). He wrote that “Homosexual conduct is, and has been, considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God upon which this Nation and our laws are predicated. Such conduct violates both the criminal and civil laws of this State and is destructive to a basic building block of society—the family. The law of Alabama is not only clear in its condemning such conduct, but the courts of this State have consistently held that exposing a child to such behavior has a destructive and seriously detrimental effect on the children. It is an inherent evil against which children must be protected.” Earlier this year, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered Alabama officials not to issue same-sex marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even after federal district court invalidated Alabama’s prohibition on same-sex marriage. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision affirming the fundamental constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry, Chief Justice Moore stated that the Court had “destroyed the institution of God.”

More information on the case, including the documents, can be found here

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24 Comments

  • 1. RnL2008  |  November 16, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    This is such TOTAL BS……..all one has to do is look at previous cases regarding similar issue like the Lisa Miller vs Janet Jenkins case between Vermont and Virginia, where Lisa Miller violated REPEATED court orders to allow Janet Jenkins to see their daughter, even fled the Country and became a fugitive when she lost……..and this case is NO different…….just because the two women separated DOESN'T mean a Court in another State has a right to VOID a legal adoption in another State…….and Alabama is GOING to get their azz in a sling!!!

  • 2. weshlovrcm  |  November 16, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    Why is Homophobia, Inc. trying to harm children? What about the children?

  • 3. Mike_Baltimore  |  November 16, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    US Constitution, Article IV, Section 1, begins:
    "Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state."

    I believe an adoption is a legal procedure, which means a court proceeding is involved (even if the proceedings are not in a courtroom). which means Alabama MUST give 'full faith and credit to the actions of Georgia courts'.

    Article VI, Section 1 goes on to explain that 'the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof'. So unless Alabama can specify how and why Georgia courts have violated the US constitution AND the laws (and it appears Alabama hasn't even come close), Alabama will lose this case, possibly on a 9-0 vote, before SCOTUS.

  • 4. RnL2008  |  November 16, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    I totally understand that Alabama is VIOLATING the rights of this woman regardless of whatever the reason is and V.L. will win her case and it will set precedent with regards to the Full Faith and Credit Clause…….as it should have already been in place with regards to marriage licenses from another State.

    What the ASSC has done is basically opted to play by it's OWN rules and NOT by the laws of this Country and those Justices who ruled against this woman should ALL be impeached!!!

  • 5. Christian0811  |  November 16, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    Yeah if it was a question of adoption by same-sex couples itself, it'd be 5-4 but since this question is more technical it'll likely be a landslide….I hope

  • 6. VIRick  |  November 16, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    An Alabama state court does not have the jurisdiction to void a Georgia state court judicial ruling. If the Georgia court says that V.L. legally-adopted those three children, then so be it. Alabama has no case and will most likely lose, 9-0, before SCOTUS, as over 100 years of precedent favor Georgia, just as Mike asserted.

  • 7. JayJonson  |  November 17, 2015 at 6:47 am

    The first same-sex marriages have taken place in Ireland.

    Below is a link to an Irish Times story about the first couple to wed, Cormac Gollogly and Richard Dowling, who married in South Tipperary.
    http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/con

    Below is a link to the stories of more of the first couples to wed (and one who could not wed because they were not told about the 5 day notice period to convert a civil union to a marriage).
    http://www.rte.ie/news/2015/1117/742465-same-sex-

  • 8. DrPatrick1  |  November 17, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Rose, unlike marriage, Divorce and Adoption are clearly judicial proceedings. As others have stated, current constitutional law so favors the mother in this case as to be almost laughable, but for the tragic circumstances (I have 3 sons and cannot imagine being separated from them for a weekend let alone 7 months already!).

    Marriages in this country have not always been recognized across state lines (though it only ever has been an issue with cases of bigamy etc when trying to decide which marriage is the legal one, not whether marriages generally should be recognized). Clearly, bigotry and animus have influenced the desire not to recognize our marriages across state lines in the past, and this was unconstitutional. But because marriages are not judicial proceedings, and because there has not been a single simple case where a marriage was not recognized AND a Federal court got involved AND ruled on the issue, there is no precedent addressing marriage recognition across state lines. The recent 6th circuit cases might have been the case to set the precedent, but we won on the first question, so they didn't have to specifically address the second question.

  • 9. Montezuma58_1  |  November 17, 2015 at 9:17 am

    The AL Supreme Court routinely disregards Alabama's constitution. It's silly to expect them to honor the US or any other state's constitution.

  • 10. RnL2008  |  November 17, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Truly, I agree with your comment…….but even though marriage is NOT a judicial process, a Marriage License is still a PUBLIC document in most cases and for as long as I have been alive, a marriage legal in one State has always been recognized in another…..even with regards to interracial marriages……..the ONLY marriages NOT recognized from State to State happened to be the marriages of Same-Sex couples………and regardless of the marriage issue, the Alabama State Supreme Court ruling was based on NOTHING more than ANIMUS and is DISCRIMINATORY!!!

  • 11. tx64jm  |  November 17, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    "the ONLY marriages NOT recognized from State to State happened to be the marriages of Same-Sex couples"

    Nope … there are many states that permit cousin marriage and those are not always recognized across state lines either.

  • 12. tx64jm  |  November 17, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    However, it does have the jurisdiction to decline to enforce the decree. Recognition is one thing, enforcement another.

  • 13. Eric  |  November 17, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    Enforcement is a function of the executive branch,not the judiciary.

  • 14. VIRick  |  November 17, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    "…. many states that permit cousin marriage …."

    Tennessee has absolutely zero restriction on "kissing cousins" getting married, yet Tennessee went out of its way to ban same-sex couples from getting married. That duplicity was actually cited in the court case which shot down Tennessee's ban, and was then subsequently imported into the marriage cases in both Wisconsin and Indiana, two states which theoretically banned kissing cousin marriages (Indiana across-the-board, while in Wisconsin only if the woman was of an age where she could conceive), yet routinely recognized kissing cousin marriages from Tennessee, to also illustrate the intrinsic duplicity of those two states' bans against same-sex marriage.

    Furthermore, there has never been a court challenge anywhere to the point you are claiming. A marriage license from Tennessee is a marriage license from Tennessee. How would anyone, as an outside third party, be able to prove that it was also a kissing cousin marriage? Officials in both Wisconsin and Indiana never even tried.

  • 15. tx64jm  |  November 17, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Child custody cases are different.

    Enforcing the terms of a child custody order is usually done by contempt, just like with Kim Davis.

    This is necessary because when one party lives in one state and another party lives in another state, the court has to have personal jurisdiction over the defendant to enforce the order by contempt. Obviously, a Georgia court does not have personal jurisdiction over an Alabama resident, since the Alabama person does not live in Georgia. So you have to "domesticate" the Georgia judgment in Alabama, and then file for enforcement of the judgment, usually by contempt.

  • 16. jcmeiners  |  November 17, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Because they are already born. The only children who matter to these crackpots are the unborn.

  • 17. Mike_Baltimore  |  November 17, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    In other words, when a married couple moves across state lines, they have to get a new marriage license from the state they moved to, correct?

    If married by 'common law' in PA (legal in PA prior to January 1, 2005), then moved to Indiana, the couple needs to get a marriage license from Indiana (even though Indiana has not allowed 'common law' marriages since the mid-1950s? Or is that common-law marriage automatically dissolved? (Funny that I talked to several couples at my step-father's funeral in Indiana in 2004 who had been 'common law' married in PA, then later moved to Indiana, and the state of Indiana treated them as married, even though they hadn't applied for an Indiana marriage license, let alone.received one.)

  • 18. tx64jm  |  November 17, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Marriage is not a judicial act. Adoption and Child Custody are judicial acts.

    Apples and Oranges.

  • 19. tx64jm  |  November 17, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    "How would anyone, as an outside third party, be able to prove that it was also a kissing cousin marriage?"

    Oh I dont know … birth certificates maybe?

  • 20. Mike_Baltimore  |  November 17, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Pennsylvania has not allowed first-cousin marriages since June 24, 1901. Maryland, on the other hand, allows first-cousin marriage. Most of the 'marriage chapels' in Maryland are near the MD/PA state line, and when sold, a big selling point is location near Pennsylvania. Seems Pennsylvania is not very enthusiastic about enforcing the prohibition on first-cousin marriages, so many couples of Pennsylvania, first-cousins, get married in Maryland, then go immediately back to Pennsylvania to live.

    This (cousin-marriage) is also true for New Jersey and New York, so some Pennsylvanians who want to marry a first-cousin have a choice.

    So why don't you name the states that don't recognize 'first-cousin' marriage? Too much bother for you look up? (Typical CON behavior – let someone else do the research.)

  • 21. VIRick  |  November 17, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    In eastern Tennessee, there are entire counties where everyone already carries the surname of Johnson, or Crockett, or my favorite,– Cocke. And where serious "inter-marriage" occurs when a Cocke marries a Johnson.

    Similarly, as we've all recently seen, half of eastern Kentucky is already named Davis.

  • 22. davepCA  |  November 17, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Heh heh. Good one.

  • 23. VIRick  |  November 17, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    Cockes and Johnsons have been getting together in eastern Tennessee long before same-sex marriage ever became legal.

    Perhaps it takes a peculiarly warped mind, but I could even get excited, whenever reading through the marriage announcements, and I'd come upon one party from Cocke County TN intending to marry another from nearby Johnson City TN.

    Once in a while, one could even encounter a special bonus,– a Johnson from Cocke County marrying a Cocke from Johnson City.

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