Disappointing denial of cert in Adar v. Smith

by on October 11, 2011  •  In Supreme Court

The Supreme Court's denial of review in Adar v. Smith leaves standing an extremely disturbing precedent. The denial sends a signal that a state can evade granting to certain out-of-state adoption orders the Full Faith and Credit protection that adoptions have long received. The Fifth Circuit en banc decision that was left in place may well have harsh consequences for lgbt and other unmarried parents. (Because the state policy is against adoption by all unmarried parents, the issue of whether the state could refuse to recognize a two-parent adoption for a gay couple who had married is still presumably open.)

For gay couples considering adoption, the undisturbed Court of Appeals decision eliminates Louisiana from the possible birth locations of children whom gay couples can adopt (thus probably consigning those children to foster care). And although this is not the factual context in Adar, I would bet that gay parents will think twice about moving to any state that follows this policy, despite, for example, job opportunities there.  Perhaps that was precisely what Louisiana officials were thinking. The risk, of course, is that other states will follow suit.

SCOTUSblog summary:

…[T]he issue was whether [the gay parents] have a right to equal treatment with married non-gay couples in having both parents’ names listed on the child’s birth certificate.  The case also was considered an important case on the meaning of the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, because of the sharply narrow scope given to that Clause by the Fifth Circuit Court.  Louisiana’s records registrar refused to put both parents’ names on the birth record for their adopted son, relying on a state policy that forbids unmarried couples to jointly adopt a child.

The adopting couple, now living in California, had become parents of a Louisiana-born boy who had been put up for adoption.  The adoption was formalized in a court decree in New York State, and the parents sought a new birth certificate for the child in Louisiana.  When the request to have both parents named on the certificate was denied, the couple sued in federal court.  Their claim under the Full Faith and Credit Clause was flatly rejected in an 11-5 ruling by the Fifth Circuit, sitting en banc.  It ruled that the Clause only imposes duties on state courts to respect other states’ official decrees, and thus did not apply to a Louisiana records official.  The Circuit, by a 9-7 vote, rejected the couples’ equal protection claim, saying that adoption was not a fundamental right and, moreover, Louisiana had a legitimate reason for refusing to allow unmarried couples to jointly adopt.

In the Supreme Court order denying review, there was no notation of any dissent among the Justices.


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