Supreme Court Asked to Overturn Denial of Lesbian Adoptive Mother’s Parental Rights

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Supreme Court Asked to Overturn Denial of Lesbian Adoptive Mother’s Parental Rights

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The petition calls a September decision by the Alabama Supreme Court to not recognize the parent's adoptive rights as "unprecedented" and asks for an emergency order allowing her to see her kids.

An Alabama mother asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to review an Alabama Supreme Court decision refusing to recognize her as an adoptive parent of three children because she is a lesbian and the adoption happened in Georgia.

The parents, identified in court documents as V.L. and E.L., were in a long-term relationship and had three children together through artificial insemination. The non-biological mother adopted the children in Georgia. The biological mother participated in that process and consented in writing to the adoptions.

The parents later broke up, but not before moving to Alabama. The biological mother kept the adoptive mother from seeing the children, arguing that the Georgia adoption was invalid in Alabama, according to allegations in court documents.

The Alabama Supreme Court in September agreed with the biological mother, ruling that Alabama did not need to respect the adoption because, according to Alabama Supreme Court justices, the Georgia court didn’t properly apply Georgia law when it granted the adoption. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that there was no indication Georgia law allowed same-sex parent adoptions.

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In her request, V.L., the adoptive parent, argues the Supreme Court should step in to correct the “unprecedented” Alabama Supreme Court decision. V.L. claims in her petition that before this ruling, no state supreme court had 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.

“The Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” National Center for Lesbian Rights Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura said in a statement following the court filing. “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.”

Under the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, states are required to respect court judgments, including adoption orders, issued by courts in other states.

The Alabama Supreme Court has a long history of issuing decisions that discriminate against LGBTQ people. In 2002, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore joined a majority opinion denying custody to a lesbian mother. Moore wrote a separate 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.”

Moore called on state officials to continue to deny marriage licenses to qualified couples following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision in Obergefell v. Hodges affirming the fundamental constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry.

V.L. also asked the Roberts Court for an emergency order permitting her to visit her children while her appeal is pending.