NEW ORLEANS — The question of whether Louisiana must put both parents’ names on birth certificates of children adopted by gay couples goes before 16 federal appeals court judges on Wednesday.
Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith of San Diego want the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a unanimous three-judge ruling and a district judge’s decision that both of their names must go on their son’s birth certificate.
Adopted children get new birth certificates with their new parents’ names on them. But the state Attorney General’s Office contends that Louisiana’s registrar cannot put both Adar’s and Smith’s names on their son’s birth certificate because they could not have adopted him together in Louisiana.
The earlier orders would make the state break its own vital records laws by including names of unmarried couples, who cannot adopt together in Louisiana regardless of sexual orientation, according to a brief filed by Assistant Attorney General Kyle Duncan.
Adar and Smith adopted a boy, who was born in Shreveport in late 2005. They were then living in Connecticut, and went to Louisiana to meet the mother, who gave them legal custody soon after his birth. They adopted him in April 2006 in New York state.
U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey found that the law was so clear that no trial was needed. Louisiana’s law requires the state to list adoptive parents’ names. Because New York law allows adoption by unmarried couples, Louisiana had to follow that law in writing the new certificate, he wrote. A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit upheld that decision last February. The state asked for a rehearing before the full court.
Kenneth D. Upton Jr., an attorney for the civil rights group Lambda Legal, represents Smith and Adar. He argues that if the registrar’s position stands, it would create a “gaping loophole” in the doctrine that states must give full faith and credit to each others’ laws.
“An exception that permits states arbitrarily to ignore legal parent-child relationships as families travel throughout the United States would create unprecedented chaos and harm,” he wrote.
The 5th Circuit is the second federal appeal court to consider the question. The 10th Circuit made a similar ruling in 2007, and Oklahoma did not appeal or ask for a rehearing in that case.