Louisiana must put both fathers' names on the birth certificate of a boy adopted by a same-sex couple, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
A three-judge panel unanimously upheld a district judge's ruling, ordering the state registrar to quickly issue a new certificate for the boy identified as "Infant J," and "J.C. A.-S."
"Even our opponents have said this is landmark case and we're pleased the court agrees that it's wrong to punish children just because the registrar doesn't like their parents," said Kenneth Upton, the attorney for Lambda Legal who represented the couple, Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith of San Diego.
Upton said he called Adar with news of the ruling and was told, "Can you imagine the coincidence? Right now I'm enrolling the child in school and they just asked me for a birth certificate."
"You talk about great timing," Upton said. "They were just delighted."
Kyle Duncan, the assistant state attorney general who argued the case, said the 36-page opinion written by Judge Jaques L. Wiener, Jr. "is a thorough rejection of the state's position."
He said he would ask the full court to rehear the case and to stop the order for a new birth certificate until it does. Duncan said he also planned to call the Texas Solicitor General's Office, where he used to work, because he thinks it probably will affect cases there. Texas and Mississippi, where a similar ruling in a local court was not appealed, also are in the 5th Circuit.
Texas' out-of-state birth certificate law is much more specific than Louisiana's about the gender of adoptive parents, Duncan said. "Louisiana's is strictly generic. It just says parents, and doesn't define it."
The child was born in Shreveport in late 2005. His mother gave Adar and Smith custody of the baby shortly after birth, and they adopted him on April 27, 2006, in New York state.
The 5th Circuit upheld a district judge's ruling that Louisiana must give "full faith and credit" to New York's laws.
Attorneys for the state contended that because Louisiana law lets only married couples and single individuals adopt children, the certificate could carry only one man's name.
U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey found that the law was so clear that no trial was needed. Louisiana's law requires the state to list adoptive parents' names. Because New York law allows adoption by unmarried couples, Louisiana had to follow that law in writing the new certificate, he wrote.
The 5th Circuit is the second federal appeal court to consider the question. The 10th Circuit made a similar ruling in 2007, and Oklahoma did not appeal or ask for a rehearing in that case.
Adoptive parents also have won a similar case in Virginia which, like Mississippi, did not appeal.