WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday unanimously reversed a ruling by Alabama’s top court that attempted to deny a lesbian mother’s adoption of her ex-partner’s children.
The decision marks another SCOTUS victory in the march toward LGBT equality—and the end of a long battle over custodial and adoptive rights fought between the two women involved in the case.
"I have been my children's mother in every way for their whole lives. I thought that adopting them meant that we would be able to be together always," the woman denied custody, identified in court documents by the initials V.L., said in a statement. "When the Alabama court said my adoption was invalid and I wasn't their mother, I didn't think I could go on. The Supreme Court has done what's right for my family."
The Alabama Supreme Court refused to recognize V.L.’s Georgia adoption of three children born by her former partner of nearly 16 years. In 2007, the Alabama residents successfully proceeded with the adoptions in Georgia because they were (wisely) advised that Atlanta-area courts might rule more progressively than those in their home state.
One bitter breakup later, the birth mother, referred to as E.L., sought via the Alabama court system to refuse V.L. visitation with their children. The case worked its way up to the Alabama Supreme Court, whose justices sided with E.L. by claiming that the adoptions violated Georgia law, effectively depriving V.L. of all parental rights.
V.L. appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in an unsigned, one-sentence opinion on the right side of history, nullified the Alabama decision by stating, "the Alabama Supreme Court erred in refusing to grant that judgment full faith and credit."
LGBT equality advocates hailed the SCOTUS decision as a potential precedent-setter and major step forward in securing full parental rights for LGBT families.
"Any attempt to deny legal rights to our families is reprehensible, and this ruling establishes that bias and discrimination cannot be allowed to undermine the bond between LGBT parents and their children," said the Human Rights Campaign’s Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "These children have two parents, and should have the security that comes with legal recognition.”
These children, at least, now do.