(San Francisco, CA, May 5, 2004) — In a decision issued yesterday, federal district court judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled that a lawsuit against Adoption.com for discriminating against same-sex couples can proceed to trial. Adoption.com is the largest adoption-related internet business in the United States. Among other for-profit services, Adoption.com permits prospective adoptive parents to post their personal profiles in hopes of connecting with potential birth mothers. They will not, however, permit same-sex couples to post their profiles.
In 2002, Adoption.com refused to accept an application from San Jose residents Rich and Michael Butler, a same-sex couple who have been together eight years and who sought to post their profiles on one of Adoption.com’s websites. Dale Gwilliam, a spokesman for the company, told the Butlers that Adoption.com does not allow gay and lesbian couples to use their services. Represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, the Butlers filed a lawsuit challenging this discriminatory policy under California law, which prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
In an initial victory for the Butlers, Judge Hamilton’s ruling yesterday rejected Adoption.com’s argument that it does not have to comply with California’s non-discrimination laws, stating: “Here, the burdens posed on defendants- allowing same sex couples to be listed on their websites – do not clearly exceed the benefits, which include providing prospective birth mothers with a greater number of potential adoptive parents from which to choose, possibly leading to a greater likelihood that children will be placed in a stable home.”
“We are relieved that we will have a chance to hold Adoption.com accountable for violating California law by discriminating against gay and lesbian couples,” said Rich Butler. “Same-sex couples are just as capable of providing good homes for children as different-sex couples.”
“Judge Hamilton’s ruling is a victory for all children in this state,” said Kate Kendell, the Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “We are long past the day when adoption agencies or businesses can exclude loving, competent parents simply because they are lesbian or gay.”
“We are very pleased with Judge Hamilton’s ruling,” commented Neel Chatterjee, a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. “The Court has confirmed, at least preliminarily, that companies that actively seek out Californians cannot and should not discriminate against same-se couples, particularly when it comes to adoption-related activities.”
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.