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Supreme Court Does the Right Thing

United States Supreme Court Awards Visitation Rights to Lesbian Adoptive Mother


In an unsigned decision without any noted dissents, the U. S. Supreme Court yesterday restored the rights of an adoptive mother who had split with her partner, according to an article in The New York Times on March 7.

The adoption ruling reversed a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court, which did not recognize the woman’s adoptions of the three children granted by a Georgia Court in 2007.

In a statement, the woman, identified in the court papers as V.L., said she was overjoyed. “I have been my children’s mother in every way for their whole lives. I thought that adopting them meant that we would 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 two women in the case, V.L. v. E.L., No. 15-648, had been in a relationship that started in 1995 and lasted almost 17 years. They even shared a last name. In 2002, the other woman, E.L., gave birth to a child and in 2004 to twins, both times by insemination via an anonymous donor.

They raised the children together in Alabama until they broke up in 2011, and the adoptive mother, V.L., continued to see the children for a time afterward. When the mothers disagreed about the visits, V.L. turned to an Alabama court, which granted her visitation rights based on the Georgia adoption judgment.

The Alabama Supreme Court reversed that, saying (in an unsigned opinion) that the Georgia judgment was not entitled to the “full faith and credit” ordinarily required by the Constitution “to the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state.”

The reasoning for this stunning refusal was the following: In the eyes of the Alabama Supreme Court, the Georgia court had misunderstood Georgia law in allowing the adoption, saying that “Georgia law makes no provision for a nonspouse to adopt a child without first terminating the parental rights of the current parents.”

In urging the Supreme Court to restore the visitation order while the justices consider whether to hear the case, lawyers for the adoptive mother said that Alabama was alone in refusing to recognize another state’s court judgment allowing the adoption of a child by a member of a same-sex couple.

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court rightfully agreed.

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