Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Second DCA: Refusal to Honor Same-Sex Couple Adoption Violates Full Faith and Credit Clause

Today, in Embry v. Ryan (2D08-1323), the Second DCA held that it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution to refuse to enforce a same-sex couple adoption - gay adoption - recognized by another state. The court rejected the appellee's argument that "Florida was not required to give full faith and credit to the Washington adoption because, Ryan alleges, it is contrary to the public policy of Florida prohibiting same-sex couple adoptions.
The Second DCA rejected the appellees argument finding it violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution.
The United States Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause provides as follows: “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.” U.S. Const. art. IV, § 1. In interpreting the Full Faith and Credit Clause, the United States Supreme Court has held that "[a] final judgment in one State, if rendered by a court with adjudicatory authority over the subject matter and persons governed by the judgment, qualifies for recognition throughout the land." Baker v. Gen. Motors Corp., 522 U.S. 222, 233 (1998). Further, the Court held that there are no public policy exceptions to the full faith and credit which is due to judgments entered in another state. Id.
Embry therefore must be given the same rights as any other adoptive parent in Florida. Therefore, regardless of whether the trial court believed that the Washington adoption violated a clearly established public policy in Florida, it was improper for the trial court to refuse to give the Washington judgment full faith and credit.


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