Last fall I wrote about the oral argument before the Fifth Circuit in Adar v. Smith. I’d actually written about the case before when it was decided by the United States District Court. Today the Fifth Circuit issued a unanimous ruling that the couple–Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith–are entitled to a birth certificate showing them both as legal parents of the child they had adopted. (I’ve linked to the actual opinion, but you can read a news account here if you prefer.)
This is noteworthy because Louisiana does not permit unmarried couples to adopt. Neither does it permit same-sex couples to marry. And it doesn’t recognize marriages of same-sex couples completed in other states. (I’ve written before about the trent towards restricting adoption by unmarried couples, which I think is a veiled way of limiting lesbian/gay adoption, although it impacts heterosexual unmarried couples as well.)
Adar and Smith adopted a child in New York, which does not have similar restrictions. When the adoption was completed, they sought issuance of a new birth certificate. (I know that birth certificates are a controversial topic all on their own. You can read a tiny bit of background here or poke around under this tag.
The key things to understand at the moment, though, are these: First, the child Smith and Adar adopted was born in Louisiana and thus had a Louisiana birth certificate. Second, ordinarily Louisiana would issue a new birth certificate in the name of the adoptive parents upon completion of an adoption, whether in Louisiana or in another state.
Because of Louisiana’s clear opposition to adoption by same-sex couples, the state registrar refused to issue a birth certificate listing Adar and Smith. They went to court and sued.
The opinion is rather lengthy, but that is a reflection of the court’s thorough treatment of all the issues raised by the state rather than of the difficulty of the decision. It is, as I said, unanimous. The Full Faith and Credit Clause requires every state to accord the court judgments of other states the same respect it would accord judgments of its own courts. Thus, if Louisiana issues new birth certificates upon completion of adoptions in Louisiana, it must do the same after adoptions in New York.
There is, as the court notes more than one, no public policy exception to this rule. In other words, Louisiana cannot decline to issue a birth certificate because it is against Louisiana policy to allow two men to jointly adopt.
For what it is worth, this case does not raise any question of whether new birth certificates should be issued after an adoption. That’s a separate question not raised here. The only question here is whether Louisiana has to respect out of state adoptions and the answer is yes.
I’m actually not aware of any opinions on this question that suggest otherwise. The court here cites some that agree and, in a slightly different context, the same is true here.