Fifth Circuit Holds “Full Faith & Credit” Must be Given to Adoptions by Gay Parents

Early last year, we wrote about a case out of Louisiana in which a federal district court judge held that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution (Art. IV) requires the state of Louisiana to provide an amended birth certificate to a gay couple identifying them as the parents of their adopted son, who was born in Louisiana and then  legally adopted by the couple in New York.  Louisiana refused, claiming that the New York adoption decree violated its own policy of not allowing joint adoptions by unmarried persons, and appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  Late last week, the Fifth Circuit unanimously affirmed the district court’s ruling, and ordered the state to supply the new birth certificate

In 2006, Oren Adar and Mickey Smith adopted a little boy who was born in Louisiana, and asked that state for an amended birth certificate listing them as the boy’s parents — among other reasons because without the certificate, Smith could not get his son covered by his employer’s health insurance. Louisiana refused to issue Adar and Smith an amended birth certificate, even though state law requires that when a child born in Louisiana has been adopted in another state, Louisiana must issue an amended birth certificate to the adoptive parents upon presentation of the adoption decree.

Adar and Smith brought a lawsuit in federal court in Louisiana to obtain the new birth certificate and won, with the judge – a Republican appointee – stating that, under the Constitution, and in accordance with clear Supreme Court precedent, one state’s obligation to recognize the judgments of another state is “exacting.”  As noted above, Louisiana appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit, one of the most conservative appeals courts in the country, where last week a three-judge panel (two of whose members are were also Republican appointees) unanimously upheld the district court’s decision, holding that “under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution of the United States, Louisiana owes full faith and credit to the New York adoption decree.”

The Fifth Circuit is to be commended for faithfully applying the plain text of the Constitution,  and not allowing Louisiana to play ideological politics with a little boy’s well-being.