Alabama Supreme Court Won’t Recognize Adoption by Lesbian Mother

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A decision Friday radically departs from the legal tradition of states recognizing court rulings from other states within their borders.

The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday refused to recognize an adoption by a lesbian mother of her three children granted by a Georgia court in 2007.

Two women in a long-term relationship had three children through donor insemination. The non-biological mother adopted the children in Georgia, according to court documents. The biological mother participated in that process and consented in writing to the adoptions. When the parents later broke up, the biological mother kept the adoptive mother from seeing the children.

The adoptive mother sought visitation in Alabama, where the family lives. The biological mother opposed her request, arguing that the Georgia adoption was invalid in Alabama.

The Alabama Supreme Court agreed with the biological mother, ruling that Alabama did not need to respect the adoption because, according to the justices of the Alabama Supreme Court, the Georgia court didn’t properly apply Georgia law when it granted the adoption. Georgia courts needed to first terminate the parental rights of the biological mother before any adoption could proceed, according to the Alabama Supreme Court.

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That did not happen.

Furthermore, the Alabama Supreme Court held, there was nothing in the case to show that Georgia law allowed same-sex parents to adopt since Georgia prohibits what is known as “second-parent adoptions.” A “second-parent” adoption is an adoption of a child having only one living parent, in which that parent retains all of her parental rights and consents to some other person, often her spouse, partner, or friend adopting the child as a second parent.

States are prohibited from inquiring into the laws applied by a court from another state under the full faith and credit doctrine. The majority of justices on the Alabama Supreme Court acknowledged that limiting principle of the full faith and credit doctrine, but then ruled that the Georgia court improperly applied Georgia law in the adoption at issue.

“The Alabama Supreme Court’s refusal to recognize an adoption granted eight years ago harms not only these children, but all children with adoptive parents,” National Center for Lesbian Rights Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura said in a statement. “Children who are adopted must be able to count on their adoptions being final—allowing an adoption to be found invalid years later because there may have been a legal error in the adoption puts all adopted children at risk of losing their forever families.”

Sakimura told Rewire that her client is reviewing her options, including the possibility of appealing the decision to the United States Supreme Court.

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