Citing the Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause, the justices in a unanimous opinion rebuked the Alabama Supreme Court for denying a lesbian’s right to visit the three children she had adopted and raised with her former partner in Georgia.
Last year, a divided Supreme Court said same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry in every state. But to the surprise of gay-rights advocates, the Alabama Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Roy Moore said in September that the woman’s adoption decree from Georgia was “void” and would not be honored.
Without bothering to hear arguments, the justices reversed the Alabama Supreme Court in an opinion that spoke for the full court.
The Alabama ruling “comports neither with Georgia law nor with common sense,” the justices said. “States may not disregard the judgment of a sister state because it disagrees with the reasoning… or deems it to be wrong.”
Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said the decision resolves one of the key outstanding issues in the wake of last year’s marriage ruling. “Everyone was waiting and watching for this case,” she said. “This should be the end of it now that the Supreme Court has weighed in.”
While the court’s conservatives dissented last year and said states should decide the marriage laws, they agreed Monday that the Constitution requires states to recognize legal judgments from other states.
As the court noted, two women denoted only as V.L. and E.L. were in a committed relationship from 1995 until 2011. With the help of a sperm donor, E.L. gave birth to a child in 2002 and to twins in 2004. V.L. formally adopted the children, and the two women raised them as parents.
But in 2011, the two women ended their relationship, and E.L., who moved to Alabama, denied the other woman's right to visit the children.
When the Alabama Supreme Court denied V.L. parental rights to visit the children, the National Center for Lesbian Rights appealed to the Supreme Court.
Monday’s ruling restores V.L.’s full rights as an adoptive parent.
“I am overjoyed that the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Alabama court decision,” said the adoptive mother, V.L. “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. 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.”
Cathy Sakimura, the family law director for the NCLR, called the court’s ruling “a victory not only for our client but for thousands of adopted families. 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.”
On Twitter: @DavidGSavage
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