The End Of The Road in Louisiana Birth Certificate Case

As regular readers will know, I’ve been following a case involving litigation over a Louisiana birth certificate for several years now.    Oren Adar and Mickey Smith are a gay male couple who adopted a child who was born in Louisiana.   The adoption was completed in NY which allows a gay male couple to jointly adopt.   After completing the adoption, Adar and Smith asked Louisiana to issue a new birth certificate showing them as parents.

Now if you’re sort of new here this may give you pause, but please, before you comment on this, read a little about birth certificates.   The key points (at least from my point of view) are these:   What Smith and Adar asked for was totally standard.  Louisiana (and all other states) routinely issue new birth certificates upon completion of an adoption.   And adoptive parents must seek the new birth certificate from the state in which the child was born (which is the state that issued the original birth certificate) rather than from the state in which the adoption was completed.

Despite the common practice, Louisiana wouldn’t issue a new birth certificate to Adar and Smith.   That’s because Louisiana does not allow unmarried couples to  jointly adopt and since Adar and Smith were an unmarried couple it wouldn’t have allowed the adoption.   So Adar and Smith went to court contending that this violated the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, which generally requires states to honor court orders (like adoptions) properly obtained from other states.

The earlier posts track the progress of the case.  From the plaintiffs’ side, you can log the history as win (the district court), win (the initial panel of the Court of Appeals) and then lose (the en banc 5th circuit).    That left one last avenue for appeal–plaintiffs asked the United States Supreme Court to review the case.   They did it by filing a petition for certiorari.

This morning the Supreme Court denied the petition–which means it declined to review the case.  So it is all over and the en banc opinion (discussed here) stands.   Perhaps the most important thing to note is that this does not mean that the Supreme Court ruled on the case.   It essentially said that it was not important enough to justify taking the time to do that.   A denial of cert (which is what the shorthand for what just happened is called) doesn’t make new law–it means there will be no further action in the case.   I think the Fifth Circuit opinion is deeply flawed, but that’s largely irrelevant.  The Fifth Circuit opinion is controlling within its geographical territory (at least for the time being.)

That’s about all there is to say here, I think.   For another take on this development, you can check out Professor Nancy Polikoff’s always interesting blog.


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