Waldlaw Blog

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Important Adoption Victory

This morning, the Florida Court of Appeals ruled that the state of Florida must give full faith and credit to a 2nd parent adoption from Washington. To be more specific (and less legalistic): a lesbian couple from Washington had two children together. Each gave birth to one, and each adopted the one to whom she had not given birth. They later moved to Florida, and after break-up one of them (let's call her Mom1) tried to argue that her ex-partner (Mom2) did not have a legal right to be recognized as a parent of the child that Mom1 had given birth to -- even though Mom2 had legally adopted the child -- because, according to Mom1 (and Liberty Counsel, who appear in every case like this), recognition of the 2nd parent adoptions from Washington violated Florida public policy. I am sorry to report that this case is one of a flurry of challenges around the country to same-sex adoptions and parentage actions. In our very mobile society, job changes and family matters frequently cause same-sex couples and their children to move to states that do not provide the same types of protections that were provided in the states where these families first formed. When ugly break-ups occur, we are seeing parents try to take advantage of the public policies of their new home states to try to gain advantage over ex's with whom they no longer want to co-parent. Because Florida has been particularly hostile to same-sex families with children -- being one of the very few states that will not allow gay people to adopt -- we were watching this case very closely. To win in Florida bodes very well for the outcomes in the other pending cases. For those of you interested in the details of the ruling, the Florida Court of Appeals held that Florida public policy was irrelevant; and that under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, Florida had no choice but to recognize the Washington judgment of adoption. As stated by the court, each mother “must be given the same rights as any other adoptive parent in Florida.” The court went on to note that “there are no public policy exceptions to the full faith and credit which is due to judgments entered in another state,” and concluded that “regardless of whether the trial court believed that the Washington adoption violated a clearly established public policy in Florida, it was improper for the trial court to refuse to give the Washington judgment full faith and credit.” A concurring opinion added that the petitioner's “same-sex relationship with [the other parent] is irrelevant for the purpose of enforcing her rights and obligations as an adoptive parent.” Kudos to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which fought this case with their usual combination of wisdom and passion. Hopefully this ruling, which does not mince words, will help stem the national tide of anti-adoption and anti-family litigation; and children will continue to enjoy the protection of our nation's courts from parents who get over-zealous in their efforts to marginalize their ex's.


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