Waldlaw Blog

Friday, August 03, 2007

Adoption Victory in Oklahoma

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit held that it is a violation of the Full Faith & Credit Clause of the United States Constitution for the State of Oklahoma to deny recognition to same-sex adoptions from other states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit is one of 13 intermediate federal appellate courts, which sit between each state's federal district courts and the United States Supreme Court. (California is in the 9th Circuit.) The territorial jurisdiction of the 10th Circuit includes the six states of Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, plus those portions of the Yellowstone National Park extending into Montana and Idaho. Needless to say, it is not a den of radical politics.... The lawsuit that led to today's decision was brought by three same-sex couples: a gay male couple from Washington State who adopted a child born in Oklahoma; a lesbian couple living in Oklahoma who completed a 2nd parent adoption in California; and a lesbian couple living in Oklahoma who completed a 2nd parent adoption in New Jersey. After the gay male couple adopted their child, they requested a new birth certificate from Oklahoma listing both of them as the child's legal parents. After a brief legal skirmish, Oklahoma issued the child a new birth certificate showing that he had two legal fathers. The Oklahoma Legislature responded by enacting a statute providing that: "this state, any of its agencies, or any court of this state shall not recognize an adoption by more than one individual of the same sex from any other state or foreign jurisdiction." It is that statute that today has been ruled unconstitutional. This case is critically important because there has been a concerted effort by certain right-wing legal organizations around the country to argue that there is a "public policy" exception to the Full Faith & Credit Clause of the United States Constitution whereby states can refuse to honor legal judgments from sister states if those judgments would violate their public policy. This argument, if adopted by federal appellate courts (or, goddess forbid, the U.S. Supreme Court), could create a "gay exception" to the United States Constitution that would set us back decades. Today's ruling deals a decisive blow to this argument. Here are some excerpts from the decision: "[W]ith respect to final judgments entered in a sister state, it is clear there is no 'public policy' exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause: Regarding judgments . . . the full faith and credit obligation is exacting." "A final judgment in one State, if rendered by a court with adjudicatory authority over the subject matter and persons governed by the judgment, qualifies for recognition throughout the land." "A court may be guided by the forum State’s ‘public policy’ in determining the law applicable to a controversy. But our decisions support no roving ‘public policy exception’ to the full faith and credit due judgments." "We hold that final adoption orders by a state court of competent jurisdiction are judgments that must be given full faith and credit under the Constitution by every other state in the nation. Because the Oklahoma statute at issue categorically rejects a class of out-of-state adoption decrees, it violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause." We dodged a bullet here, folks. And in Oklahoma, at that. I will sleep better tonight with this ruling protecting all adoptive families around the country from second-guessing by hostile jurisdictions.


  • I would put in a wish for the adoptee's in these cases... that the birth certificate also include the names of his or her first parents. As important the question being settled today by this court decision may be for adopting parents it remains an incomplete solution to the children being adopted.

    By Blogger Mark, at 1:58 PM  

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