Update On Louisiana Birth Certificate Case

While I am doing updates, here’s another tidbit.   There’s a case I’ve been following for a long time–Adar v. Smith.   Oren Adar and Mickey Smith (not the Smith of the case name) are a gay male couple who adopted a child.   The child happened to be born in Louisiana.   The adoption was completed in NY, where two men are permitted to jointly adopt.   Following the adoption, Adar and Smith asked Louisiana to issue a new birth certificate–one that listed both their names.

Now I understand that to many people this may seem odd.   After all, Adar and Smith are not the birth parents of the child.   But the listing of “parents” on a birth certificate is not a statement of historical fact.  It is not a statement that these people are the original parents of the child or even a statement that one of them was present at the birth.   It’s routine to issue new birth certificates after adoption–ones that list the adoptive parents.  It’s the proof you have that you are now a legal parent.

There’s a whole discussion to be had about whether this is a good or a bad idea (and if you read under the tag “birth certificates” you will find some of that.   But this is not my purpose here.   Suffice it to say that Louisiana refused to issue the new birth certificate because it would not have allowed Adar and Smith to adopt.   (They aren’t married, you know?)

That’s actually a surprising ruling–issuance of birth certificates after out-of-state adoptions are pretty routine.   But Louisiana wouldn’t do it and so Adar and Smith sued.  They won the first two court decisions but lost the third and most recent.   This is all the subject of earlier posts.

The last resort is review by the United States Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court does not have to grant review–it is strictly optional.  To obtain it you file something called a petition for certiorari.   What you must do in that petition is persuade the Court that the issue is an important one–one that is worthy of consideration even though their time is limited. By contrast, the state (opposing review) wants to say that there is nothing very interesting about the case.

So the cert petition (that’s the short name) has been filed.  And with it a handful of amicus briefs–that means arguments by other people in support of one of the parties.   You can see the list of people trying to persuade the Court that it should take the time to hear the case.

I’ve signed on to one of the briefs myself–one prepared jointly by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and big law firm called Dewey and LeBoeuf.

I offer all this an an update.  I’ll watch for the opposition.  (I think they have thirty days to file.)   The Supreme Court will decide whether or not to review the case sometime this fall.

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4 responses to “Update On Louisiana Birth Certificate Case

  1. I have to say in general I do not agree with changing birth certificates. The adoption certificate should be what proves the adoptive parents are now the legal parents. The birth certificate should accurately list the child’s parents at birth and be available to the child when he or she turns 18 or 21. So I have to say I don’t have much sympathy in these cases since I think allowing the birth certificate to be changed is wrong in the first place.

  2. There’s nothing inherently unreasonable in suggesting that birth certificates be treated as historical documents. I could construct a world where each legal parent has a separate “certificate of parentage” or something like that. The problem is that (in the US at least–would love to hear about other practices) birth certificates are used as certificates of parentage.

    What I mean is this. If I want my child to play soccer, when I register her/him I have to produce a birth certificate. Now you might say that adoptive parents should have something else to produce but this essentially means that they are required to tell the local soccer team that the child is adopted. Some parents might be fine with that, but perhaps not all and really–why on earth does the local soccer team need to know that the child is adopted? i think what this means is that to get to that place you’d prefer–where there’s some other sort of documentation that is used–requires a substantial shift in the practices of a lot of organizations/entities.

    Quite beside all that, if most adoptive parents get a new birth certificate there are serious fairness issues with denying a new certificate to some. At the very least, it requires some justification for why those who are denied are singled out. That’s really the issue in Adar—it isn’t about the stuff above. Louisiana DOES issue new birth certificates to all adoptive parents except of a small subgroup. That discrimnation is problematic.

  3. I am following this case closely. My domestic partner and I have a 19 month old son who was born in Ohio, which does not recognize second-parent adoption. I am the bio mom and we used an anonymous donor, so my son’s birth certificate leaves the “father” section blank. When we lived in Ohio, we went through a very expensive process of establishing “co-custodian” status for my partner through the juvenile court system to allow her to do things like seek medical treatment for our son. We have now moved to another state which does not recognize our co-custody arrangement but does allow second-parent adoption on an “under the radar” county-by-county basis (our joint adoption will be finalized at the end of this month, hallelujah). What Ohio will do with the birth certificate remains to be seen.

    • This is exactly the sort of situation where Ohio must recognize the adoption (that is actually fairly clear even in the Adar opinion). Once it recognizes the adoption it should treat it like any other–which means is shouldissue a new birth certificate. But as you say, whether it does remains to be seen. If you’re so inclined, you can tell us what happens.

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