U.S. Supreme Court Urged to Protect Stability of Families of Same-Sex Couples

December 17, 2015 - Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and Foley Hoag LLP today filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the Court to grant review in the Alabama second-parent adoption case, V.L. v. E.L., No. 15-648.

V.L. and E.L. are former lesbian partners who agreed to have and raise three children together but are now separated. Before their separation, the two had obtained an adoption judgment in Georgia making V.L. a legal parent. After their separation, the birth mother, E.L., took the position that the Alabama courts could disregard Georgia's judgment of adoption. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed, holding that E.L. was the children's only legal parent.

The brief urges the Supreme Court to hear the case, arguing that Alabama cannot disregard the Georgia adoption judgment simply because Alabama believes the Georgia court's adoption order should not have issued in the first place. If states disregard each other's adoptions, it will severely undermine the security, stability, and predictability of parent-child relations secured by adoption and parentage judgments across the nation.

"Adoption judgments confirm and dignify the parent-child relationship, promising love, nurture and stability to children even in the face of differing state laws about who is a parent, " said Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director at GLAD and co-counsel to amici. "Alabama cannot disregard this adoption judgment and treat the parent-child bond as ephemeral or non-existent. This case threatens adoptive families across the nation. "

More than 125,000 households headed by same-sex couples are raising nearly a quarter-million children in the United States. Same-sex couples in the South have among the highest rates of childrearing in the country, and same-sex couples of color are more likely to be raising children than white couples.

"Children are left vulnerable when states do not give full faith and credit to each other's adoption and parentage judgments, " said Marco J. Quina of Foley Hoag, co- counsel to amici. "Recognizing these judgments is critical to protecting parents, children, and families given continuing objections to the families of same-sex couples in some states."

On Monday, the Supreme Court granted V.L.'s request to stay the Alabama ruling, meaning her adoption is still enforceable in Alabama while the Court decides whether to hear her appeal.

The amicus brief was filed on behalf of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Equality Alabama Foundation, Equality Federation, Georgia Equality, the Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National LGBTQ Task Force, PFLAG, the Stonewall Bar of Georgia, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Foley Hoag team on the brief included Marco J. Quina, Claire Laporte, Catherine Deneke, Jenevieve Maerker, and Kevin J. Conroy, with assistance from paralegal Margaret McKane.

Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.

Foley Hoag provides innovative, strategic legal services to public, private and government clients across the globe. The firm's professionals possess the skills and experience to provide exceptional senior level service to clients ranging from startups to multinational companies to sovereign states. Foley Hoag is a longtime advocate for equal rights for gay and lesbian individuals.

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