(Montgomery, AL, September 18, 2015)—Today, the Alabama Supreme Court refused to recognize an adoption by a lesbian mother of her three children granted by a Georgia court in 2007. Even though she had raised the children from birth and adopted them over eight years ago, the Court ruled that Alabama does not need to respect her adoption because it found that the Georgia court didn’t properly apply Georgia law when it granted her adoption.
Although the Alabama Supreme Court recognized that full faith and credit prohibits a state from inquiring into the laws applied by a court from another state, it ruled that Alabama did not have to respect the Georgia court’s adoption because the Court believed that Georgia law did not allow same-sex parents to adopt. One Justice dissented from this opinion, explaining that full faith and credit prohibits Alabama from considering whether the Georgia court correctly applied its own laws, and that this ruling puts all adopted children in Alabama at risk if it is later discovered that there was some small error in the adoption.
In E.L. v. V.L., two women in a long term relationship had three children through donor insemination. The non-biological mother, V.L., adopted the children in Georgia. The biological mother participated in that process and consented in writing to the adoptions. When the parents later broke up, the biological mother, E.L., kept V.L. from seeing the children. V.L. sought visitation in Alabama, where the family lives. E.L. opposed her request, arguing that the Georgia adoption was invalid in Alabama.
V.L is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and Alabama attorneys Heather Fann of Boyd, Fernambucq, Dunn & Fann, P.C., and Traci Vella of Vella & King, Attorneys at Law.
“It is extremely difficult to see the distress in my children as they realize that the courts who are tasked with putting their best interests first won’t recognize our family,” said V.L. “I am just a Mom who wanted and prayed for these children and raised them from birth, and I hope every day that we can be together again.”
“The Alabama Supreme Court’s refusal to recognize an adoption granted eight years ago harms not only these children, but all children with adoptive parents,” said NCLR Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura. “Children who are adopted must be able to count on their adoptions being final—allowing an adoption to be found invalid years later because there may have been a legal error in the adoption puts all adopted children at risk of losing their forever families.”
“The biological mother in this case chose my client as a second parent to these children, before their births, during their conceptions, and in formal adoption proceedings intended to ensure my client’s rights — wherein she stated that having my client as a parent was in the children’s best interests,” said Heather Fann. “Because, many years later, she chose to contradict her own decision-making regarding the establishment of a family for those children, a court ruled today that my client is not a parent. Not only is that not true, its harm extends far beyond my client, to children who have called her mother their entire lives, and now to adoptive families throughout Alabama. It’s beyond unfortunate that the Alabama Supreme Court has disregarded the recommendations of the children’s own lawyers and national adoption organizations in arriving at this result.”
“As a mother myself, my heart is breaking for my client, who loves her children as much as any other mother. Adopted children are loved every bit as much as those with a biological connection to a parent,” said Traci Vella. “Ask any adoptive parent how horrifying it would be to think his or her adoption could be overturned years after it was final. That is exactly what has happened in this case.”
The children’s Guardians Ad Litem are Breauna R. Peterson and Tobie J. Smith of the Legal Aid Society of Birmingham.
The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the Georgia Council of Adoption Lawyers filed an amicus brief in support of rehearing.