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La. Adoption Case Sets Ominous Tone for LGBT Parents

October 13, 2011

“Family values” at risk for unmarried couples with children

On October 4, the Supreme Court announced its decision not to hear Adar vs Smith, a lawsuit in which legal recognition of an adoption was denied to an unmarried gay male couple in Louisiana. That state’s law prevents unmarried couples (both gay and straight) from both being listed as parents on their adopted child’s birth certificate. According to research from the Williams Institute, a leading think tank producing policy related to sexual orientation and gender identity, the decision could be the catalyst for similar laws that could potentially affect more than 90,000 children in the United States.

Plaintiffs Oren Adar and Mickey Smith had initially won their case in trial court, but the favorable ruling was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Though Adar and Smith appealed, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, allowing the lower court’s ruling to stand—and effectively denying Adar and Smith’s request to have both of their names listed on their adopted child’s birth certificate.

Louisiana is one of at least five states that employ this policy. According to the Williams Institute, the Supreme Court’s decision could potentially open the doors for other conservative states to take action and implement similar laws against recognizing unmarried adoptive parents. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 47,000 unmarried straight couples have adopted children in the United States, and around 20,000 same-sex couples are raising nearly 30,000 adopted children.

Children with inaccurate birth certificates and murky legal guardianship would be especially vulnerable should catastrophe strike. If an adopted child needs medical attention, becomes lost or even is kidnapped, authorities in states with unmarried partner adoption restrictions would be limited to communicating solely with the legal guardian—not both parents as equals.

The possibility of restrictive laws like these becoming popular among conservative-leaning states is a threat to the LGBT community as well as unmarried couples everywhere. Whatever happened to conservatives’ concern for “family values?”

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