The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously reversed an Alabama court's refusal to recognize a same-sex adoption, USA Today reports.
The case involved an Alabama woman, known as "V.L." in court papers, who had been granted adoption rights with her former lesbian partner of 17 years, known as "E.L.," in Georgia. E.L. gave birth to three children between 2002 and 2004 while she was in a relationship with V.L. The couple established temporary residency in Georgia, where the laws were considered more favorable to adoption.
When the couple split up, V.L. asked an Alabama court to grant joint custody; that court agreed that the Georgia adoption order must be honored. But in September, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled Georgia erroneously granted V.L. joint custody, saying it had violated its own adoption laws.
But in its unsigned opinion issued Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution's "full faith and credit" clause meant that Alabama did not have the right to overrule the rights Georgia had granted to V.L.
"The Georgia judgment appears on its face to have been issued by a court with jurisdiction, and there is no established Georgia law to the contrary," the court said. "It follows that the Alabama Supreme Court erred in refusing to grant that judgment full faith and credit."
In a statement released by The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Monday, V.L. said she was relieved.
“I have been my children’s mother in every way for their whole lives," she said. "I thought that adopting them meant that we would be able to be together always. When the Alabama court said my adoption was invalid and I wasn’t their mother, I didn’t think I could go on. The Supreme Court has done what’s right for my family.”
Gay rights groups had said the Alabama Supreme Court decision had set a dangerous precedent.
"If the full faith and credit clause can be as easily circumvented as it was by the Alabama Supreme Court, the parent-child relationship will be only as strong as the credit it will be given in the most restrictive states," said a friend-of-court brief filed on behalf of V.L. by several gay rights groups, according to NBC.
LGBT advocacy group Family Equality says that most states' laws are silent on the subject of second-parent adoptions. Three states, Michigan, Virginia, and North Dakota, permit state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, including LGBT people and same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.