2009 Press Releases

7.7.2009: ACLU Urges Federal Appeals Court To Require Louisiana To Issue Birth Certificate To Adopted Child Of Gay Couple

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend-of-the-court brief today urging a federal appeals court to uphold an earlier decision requiring Louisiana to issue a birth certificate with the names of both parents to a boy who was adopted by a gay couple in New York.

"Longstanding constitutional law requires states to respect court orders from other states," said Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "Yet our attorney general has attempted to cast aside that principle to project his view of morality on a boy and his family. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it perfectly clear that government actions that are intended solely to disadvantage one group of people won't pass constitutional review."

Oren Adar and Mickey Smith, who are represented by Lambda Legal, adopted their Louisiana-born son in 2006 in a New York court. Soon thereafter, Smith attempted to get a new birth certificate in Louisiana for their son listing Adar and Smith as the boy's parents. The state is required by law to issue new birth certificates to adoptive parents, and Adar and Smith hoped to use the birth certificate to establish Smith's relationship to the boy for purposes of including him on Smith's health insurance plan. Ignoring established constitutional law, the Louisiana Attorney General objected to the issuance of the birth certificate and advised the registrar that she didn't have to issue the birth certificate because the couple is unmarried and the adoption would not have been granted if they lived in Louisiana.

On December 23, 2008, a U.S. District Court ruled against the registrar and ordered the registrar to issue the birth certificate identifying both Adar and Smith as the boy's parents. The state appealed the decision, which is now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

It its friend-of-the-court brief, the ACLU charges that denying a child of unmarried parents a birth certificate that accurately reflects his or her relationship to his or her legal parents singles these children out for discrimination. According to the brief, the only possible reason for the state to deny children of unmarried couples a birth certificate is to express moral disapproval of unmarried couples, which is unconstitutional.

"We are hopeful the Court of Appeals will see send a strong message to elected officials that political grand standing won't fly when children are harmed," added Esman.

Oral argument in the case has not yet been scheduled. The legal team who drafted the brief includes Katie Schwartzmann, legal director of the ACLU of Louisiana, James Esseks, co-director of the ACLU LGBT Project and Ken Choe, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project.

A copy of the brief is available at www.laaclu.org/PDF_documents/Adar_Amicus_Brief_07072009.pdf.  Additional information about the case is available at www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/adar-v-smith.html.