FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | August 4, 2003
The National Center for Lesbian Rights Applauds the California Supreme Court's Decision Affirming the Validity of Second-Parent Adoptions
(San Francisco, CA, August 4, 2003) — The National Center for Lesbian Rights applauds the California Supreme Court's decision affirming the validity of second-parent adoptions, which permit both partners in a lesbian or gay couple to establish a legal relationship with the couple's children. NCLR submitted an amicus (friend of the court) brief supporting second-parent adoptions and coordinated the filing of numerous other amicus briefs.
In a resounding endorsement of second-parent adoptions, six of the seven California Supreme Court Justices reversed a decision of the California Court of Appeal from October, 2001, which created shock waves throughout the country by holding that the California adoption statutes do not permit second-parent adoptions.
According to Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, "By affirming second parent adoption, the California Supreme Court remedied a terrible lower court decision that had jeopardized the security of thousands of children with same-sex parents. This decision ensures that California law strengthens, rather than destroys, family bonds."
Writing for the majority, Justice Werdegar held that "second parent adoptions offer the possibility of obtaining the security and advantages of two parents for some of California's neediest children." Justice Werdegar also stressed the importance of providing legal protections and stability for children born to same-sex and other unmarried couples: "Unmarried couples who have brought a child into the world with the expectation that they will raise it together, and who have jointly petitioned for adoption, should be on notice that if they separate the same rules concerning custody and visitation as apply to all other parents will apply to them."
Without a second-parent adoption, a child is not entitled to financial support or the right to intestate inheritance from the non-legal parent, and will be unable to claim Social Security, retirement or state worker compensation benefits if the non-legal parent dies or is incapacitated. The child may be denied health or other insurance benefits from the non-legal parent's employer, and the non-legal parent may not be able to consent to emergency medical care or visit the child in the hospital. If the legal parent dies or become incapacitated, the child may become a ward of the state.
In California, thousands of second parent adoptions have been granted since 1984, when the concept was first originated by attorneys from the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Since that time, the procedure has spread throughout the country and has become the standard means by which same-sex parent families are able to protect their families.
California is now the ninth jurisdiction in which an appellate court has approved second-parent adoptions. Other states in which appellate courts have approved this procedure include: the District of Columbia (1995), Illinois (1995), Indiana (2003), Massachusetts (1993), New Jersey (1995), New York (1995), Pennsylvania (2002), and Vermont (1993). In addition, state legislatures in three states -- California, Connecticut, and Vermont -- have enacted adoption statutes that explicitly permit same-sex partners to adopt, and second parent adoptions have been granted by trial courts in more than fifteen additional states. Altogether, second-parent adoptions are generally available in more than half the country.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.