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5th Circuit: Constitution does not require states to pretend two men can create a child

Appellate court rules that La. cannot be forced to issue a birth certificate to two NY men who adopted child born in La.
Related Case:
“Just Who do We Think We Are?”

NEW ORLEANS — Two New York men who adopted a child born in Louisiana, which does not recognize unmarried couples as adoptive parents, cannot force that state to reissue a birth certificate in their name, according to a decision issued Tuesday by a full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case in 2009 on behalf of the Family Research Council and Louisiana Family Forum.

“Everyone knows two men cannot create a child.  Thankfully, the court affirmed that the U.S. Constitution does not force states to pretend they can,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks.  “Everyone understands why birth certificates specify ‘mother’ and ‘father,’ and that’s what vital records are supposed to confirm. The state of Louisiana has every right to act in accordance with its own statutes and refuse to manipulate a birth certificate.”

Oren Adar and Mickey Smith, who in 2006 jointly adopted a boy in New York, demanded that a Louisiana registrar replace the names of the boy’s biological parents with their own on the child’s birth certificate. The registrar declined and instead offered to list only one of the men’s names on the certificate because Louisiana does not recognize unmarried couples as adoptive parents. Adar and Smith rejected the alternative and filed the suit Adar v. Smith against Louisiana State Registrar Darlene Smith.

A judge with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ordered the registrar to issue the certificate with the two men listed both as “fathers,” in violation of state law. A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit later upheld the decision, but a full panel of the 5th Circuit reversed the decision Tuesday.

“In this case, Louisiana may rationally conclude that having parenthood focused on a married couple or single individual--not on the freely severable relationship of unmarried partners--furthers the interests of adopted children,” the 5th Circuit noted, citing research underscoring the importance of stable family structures for the well-being of children.

“In particular,” the court continued, “the report noted that marriage, when compared to cohabitation, ‘is associated with better outcomes for children,’ since marriage is more likely to provide the stability necessary for the healthy development of children. This fact alone provides a rational basis for Louisiana’s adoption regime and corresponding vital statistics registry. Moreover, since the law here attempts neither to encourage marriage nor to discourage behavior deemed immoral…, but rather to ensure stable environments for adopted children, the court has sufficient basis to hold that the Louisiana law does not run afoul of the equal protection clause.”

  • ADF defense of marriage legal information website
  • Pronunciation guide: Nimocks (NIM’-ucks)

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.