Waldlaw Blog

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Oklahoma Comes To Its Senses

Hot off the presses: Adoption Law Is Rejected By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: May 21, 2006 OKLAHOMA CITY, May 20 (AP) — A Federal District Court judge on Friday struck down a two-year-old Oklahoma law against recognizing adoptions by same-sex couples from other states and countries. The judge said the law violated due process under the Constitution because it tried to break up families without weighing the parents' fitness or the children's best interests. So there you have it. Here's the "back story" on this one: No matter where a child is adopted, for domestic adoptions (as opposed to international adoptions) issuing a new birth certificate falls to the state where the child was born. Oklahoma is one of a number of states that won't issue birth certificates listing two parents of the same sex, even if that is the legal situation. So, for example, if a woman in Oklahoma gives birth to a child, and chooses to give that child to a gay couple in Wisconsin for adoption, and the gay couple legally adopts the child in Wisconsin so the child legally has no mother and two fathers, Oklahoma then has the responsibility of issuing a new birth certificate reflecting that fact. But they won't. Several years ago, a gay couple and Lambda Legal sued the state of Oklahoma for refusing to issue a girl adopted by the couple a new birth certificate with both fathers' names on it. They won in the trial court, then Oklahoma turned around and passed legislation, signed into law by the governor, decreeing that Oklahoma would not recognize any adoption performed anywhere by which a child ended up with two parents of the same sex. In other words, even though my children unquestionably have two legal mothers, we couldn't go to Oklahoma without them being stripped of their relationship with one of us as a matter of Oklahoma law. Pretty scary stuff! Anyway, Lambda appealed the case on federal, constitutional grounds, and on Friday they won. This is a huge relief to all of us who practice adoption law and frequently are asked by our gay clients the sensible and pressing question: "If I adopt my child here in California [or any other state that allows gay couples to adopt], the adoption will be legal wherever I go, right?!" I am happy to say that, for the moment anyway, we will once again be able to answer that question with a resounding YES. (For Lambda's press release on the Oklahoma case, go to http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/iowa/news/press.html?record=1959.)


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