Friday, February 19, 2010

Fifth Circuit Holds Louisiana Must Recognize New York Same-Sex Adoption

The Fifth Circuit released an opinion yesterday affirming the district court's entry of a mandatory injunction requiring the Louisiana State Registrar to issue a new original birth certificate to the "unmarried adult males who obtained a joint adoption decree for Infant J in a New York state court."  The decision in Adar, et al v. Smith (09-30036) stated:
This case poses an issue of first impression in this circuit; only one other circuit has addressed a similar one.7 The instant dispute implicates the questions (1) whether Louisiana owes full faith and credit to the subject New York adoption decree and (2) whether full faith and credit requires Louisiana, under the plain language of its own statute and under the constitutional requirement of “evenhanded” enforcement of that judgment, to issue a Certificate for Infant J that lists both Adoptive Parents as his parents.
The footnote cites to Finstuen v. Crutcher, 496 F. 3d 1139 (10th Cir. 2007).  While not cited in the opinion, Florida's Second District Court of Appeal previously reached the same result in Embry v. Ryan, 11 So. 3d 408 (Fla. 2d 2009).  Embry was previously discussed HERE and HERE.  Additionally, Florida's Third District Court of Appeal is currently considering whether Florida's ban against same-sex adoptions is unconstitutional.  See HERE.

The Fifth Circuit's decision provides a detailed analysis of the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution and standing.  While it is a 38 page decision, it does not appear the court has any doubts about its ruling and, at times, appears to indicate Louisiana's arguments were completely without merit.  The conclusion stated:
We hold that under the plain meaning of the statutes, Adar and Smith are the “adoptive parents” of the minor J. C. A.-S. for purposes of LA. REV. STAT. ANN. §§ 40:76 and 40:77, and that under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution of the United States, Louisiana owes full faith and credit to the New York adoption decree that declares J .C. A.-S. to be the adopted child of Adar and Smith. We hold further that said § 40:76 does not vest the Registrar with discretion to refuse to make a new, correct birth certificate for a Louisiana born child when, as here, his out-of-state adoption decree is evidenced by documentation that indisputably satisfies the requirements of § 40:76(A) and (B). We also hold that § 40:76 mandates that the Registrar make a new record for J. C. A.-S. and issue a new, correct birth certificate for him containing all statutorily directed information.
We therefore LIFT our stay of the district court’s order; AFFIRM the district court’s grant of a mandatory injunction; and ORDER that the Registrar comply with the district court’s injunction forthwith.
Articles about the Fifth Circuit's decision can be found at the following links:  The Herald;; Jurist; and the Miami Herald.  Thanks to How Appealing.


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