The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sided with an Alabama lesbian mother who has tried to obtain visitation rights with her children.
The mother filed an emergency application requesting that the Court stay an Alabama Supreme Court order refusing to recognize the adoption of her three children. The mother will be able to have visitation rights with her children pending the Roberts Court’s consideration of her case.
The case involves two women in a long-term relationship who had three children through donor insemination. To ensure that both women would have secure parental rates, V.L., the non-biological mother, adopted the children in Georgia in 2007, according to court documents. The biological mother participated in the adoption process and consented to the adoptions in writing. When the relationship between the two parents later soured, the biological mother prevented the adoptive mother from seeing the children, arguing that the Georgia adoption was invalid in Alabama, where they live.
The Alabama Supreme Court agreed with the biological mother, ruling that Alabama was not required to respect the adoption because, according to the Alabama Supreme Court justices, the Georgia court didn’t properly apply Georgia law when it granted the adoption.
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Georgia courts failed to first terminate the parental rights of the biological mother before proceeding with the adoption as required by Georgia law, according to the Alabama Supreme Court.
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 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.
V.L., in her emergency application to the U.S. Supreme Court, noted that the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision is unprecedented.
Before the ruling in question, 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, according to a statement from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the advocacy group representing V.L.
Under the full faith and credit doctrine, states are required to respect court judgments, including adoption orders, issued by courts in other states.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas referred V.L.’s emergency application to the entire court, which granted her request to stay the Alabama court order.
“I’m overjoyed that my children and I will be able to be together again,” V.L. said in a statement. “It’s been so long—more time that I ever thought I could bear—since we have been able to be together and just do the everyday things that parents do with their children, like having dinner together and helping them with their homework. I adopted my children more than eight years ago to be sure that I could always be there to protect them. This terrible Alabama decision has hurt my family and will hurt so many other families if it is not corrected.”