The Supreme Court overturned an Alabama court ruling that refused to recognize the paternal rights of a lesbian woman who had adopted three children in Georgia.
The case centered around an unmarried lesbian couple who shared custody of three children but later split up. One of them gave birth to the children with the help of a sperm donor, and her partner later adopted the children in 2007 while living in Georgia so they could both be the official, legal parents.
The biological mother, who now lives in Alabama, tried to keep the children from the adoptive mother after the couple parted ways, sparking the legal battle. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Alabama did not have to recognize the adoption made in Georgia, stripping the adoptive mother of her rights to the children. The Supreme Court reversed that decision Monday.
“I am overjoyed that the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Alabama court decision,” the adoptive mother, identified only as V.L., said in a statement. “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. 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.”
Alabama’s court reasoned Georgia did not properly rule on its own laws regarding same-sex adoption and the state has a vested interest in making sure adopted children have good homes. But the Supreme Court ruled “a state may not disregard the judgment of a sister state because it disagrees with the reasoning underlying the judgment or deems it to be wrong on the merits.”
The case will set favorable precedent for same-sex couples looking to adopt. Adoptions is one of the last legal frontiers for same-sex couples since the Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage nationwide last year.
“The Supreme Court’s reversal of Alabama’s unprecedented decision to void an adoption from another state is a victory not only for our client but for thousands of adopted families,” National Center for Lesbian Rights Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura, who is representing V.L, said in a statement. “No adoptive parent or child should have to face the uncertainty and loss of being separated years after their adoption just because another state’s court disagrees with the law that was applied in their adoption.”
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