National Center for Lesbian Rights

Press

(Washington, D.C., December 17, 2015)—A broad range of leading adoption advocates and constitutional and family law scholars and experts filed friends of the court briefs today in support of a lesbian mother in Alabama who is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review an Alabama Supreme Court order refusing to recognize her adoption of her three children.

Last month, V.L. asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Alabama Supreme Court decision refusing to recognize her as an adoptive parent to her 13-year-old and 11-year-old twins and holding that Alabama does not have to recognize second-parent adoptions granted by Georgia courts. On December 14, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court granted V.L.’s request to stay the Alabama Supreme Court decision in order to permit V.L. to have visitation with her children while it considers her case.

The amicus briefs argue that V.L.’s adoption is entitled to recognition in Alabama and that failure to recognize the adoption conflicts with decades of Supreme Court precedent as well as laws and policies that protect the finality of adoptions.

The briefs:

  • The Donaldson Adoption Institute, North American Council on Adoptable Children, First Focus, Center for the Study of Social Policy, Child Welfare League of America, Voice for Adoption, Ampersand Families, Center for Adoption Policy, and Family Builders by Adoption filed a brief about the harmful impact on children of undoing adoptions and taking them away from their adoptive parents.
  • Family Equality Council, COLAGE, and Campaign for Southern Equality filed a brief that elevates the voices of children with same-sex parents and highlights the families and children who are protected by second-parent adoptions.
  • A group of conflicts of law scholars  filed a brief that discusses the principles underlying the Full Faith and credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution and how the Alabama Supreme Court violated settled full faith and credit precedent.
  • GLAD, Equality Alabama Foundation, Equality Federation, Georgia Equality, Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Black Justice Coalition, National LGBTQ Task Force, PFLAG, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia filed a brief emphasizing the importance of full faith and credit for same-sex couples and their families,  and how same sex parents and their children rely on adoptions and parentage judgments to protect their families.
  • American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the Georgia Council of Adoption Lawyers filed a brief discussing the Alabama court’s disregard for the authority of Georgia courts on matters of Georgia adoption law, and how the decision impacts many thousands of families because numerous states have granted second parent adoptions like the one in this case.
  • The Constitutional Accountability Center filed a brief discussing the historical importance of the Full Faith and Credit Clause and how the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court “flouts a century of precedent on the Full Faith and Credit Clause.”
  • A group of family law professors filed a brief discussing the importance of the finality of adoptions and state laws protecting finality of adoptions

“This unprecedented decision by the Alabama Supreme Court harms not only our client and her children, but thousands of other adoptive families,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura. “These amicus briefs show a broad consensus among adoption experts, advocates and scholars, as well as constitutional law scholars, that adoption law and the Full Faith and Credit Clause strongly protect the finality of adoptions from attack years later and require all states to recognize adoptions from other states, even if they may disagree with the law applied in those adoptions.”

V.L and E.L. were in a long-term same-sex relationship in which they planned and raised three children together, using donor insemination. To ensure that both had secure parental rights, V.L., the non-biological mother, adopted the couples’ three children in Georgia in 2007, with E.L.’s support and written consent. When the two later broke up, E.L. kept V.L. from seeing the children, fighting her request for visitation, and arguing that the Georgia adoption was invalid in Alabama, where they live.

On September 18, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an order refusing to recognize V.L.’s Georgia adoption and declaring that it is “void.” Even though both women participated in the adoption hearing and consented to the adoption, the Court broke with more than a century of precedent requiring states to honor court judgments from other states. Disregarding this clear precedent, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Alabama can treat the adoption as void based on the Alabama Supreme Court’s view that the Georgia court should not have granted the adoption in 2007.

In her request last month to the U.S. Supreme Court, V.L. noted that the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision is unprecedented and prior to the ruling no state supreme court has 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.

Under the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, states are required to respect court judgments, including adoption orders, issued by courts in other states. V.L is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Adam Unikowsky and Paul Smith of Jenner & Block, and Alabama attorneys Heather Fann of Boyd, Fernambucq, Dunn & Fann, P.C., and Traci Vella of Vella & King, Attorneys at Law.

Read all amicus briefs.

Learn more about the case.

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