Late today, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an en banc ruling in Adar v. Smith. As I noted in several earlier posts about this case, Oren Adar and Mickey Smith jointly adopted a child in New York. The child was born in Louisiana, and the couple sought an amended birth certificate listing both of them as parents. Louisiana refused to issue the birth certificate, citing its own law prohibiting an unmarried couple from jointly adopting a child. The couple is represented by Lambda Legal, whose senior staff attorney Ken Upton argued the case in January. The couple won in the trial court and in a Fifth Circuit panel opinion. This loss comes after rehearing by the entire Fifth Circuit.
Tomorrow I will write more about the court's ruling that the couple could not sue the state for violating the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Tonight I will just note that the court ruled against the argument that the state is denying the child equal protection of the law by refusing to issue a birth certificate based on the marital status of his parents.
Citing the despicable 11th Circuit Lofton ruling upholding Florida's ban on adoption by gay men and lesbians, the majority said that Louisiana has "a legitimate interest in encouraging a stable and nurturing environment for the education and socialization of its adopted children." It then cited one 2002 report for the principle that marriage is associated with better child outcomes than cohabitation because it is more likely to provide stability. Because this provides a rational basis for denying unmarried couples the opportunity to adopt, it therefore is sufficient support for denying a child adopted by an unmarried couple a birth certificate with two names. Both the logic and the sentiment here are appalling. This reasoning (or lack thereof) stands in sharp contrast to that of the Arkansas Supreme Court, which just last week ruled that the state's ban on adoption by anyone living with an unmarried partner was unconstitutional. The Adar v. Smith Fifth Circuit ruling also dismissed almost out of hand the argument that the state is violating the constitutional prohibition on discrimination against nonmarital children by denying a child with unmarried parents a birth certificate reflecting his legal parentage -- something granted routinely to children with married parents.
There's a strong dissent. And there is a contrary case from the 10th circuit five years ago, also argued by Lambda Legal. I hope Lambda asks for review by the US Supreme Court. The "circuit split" raises the odds that the Court would hear the case.