Just yesterday, Ken Upton took time out to return one of my incessant phone calls despite the fact that he was busy tending to a family emergency. When I asked Upton about the emergency, he said it’s just that as his parents get older, he needs to spend more time with them. He added that he’s getting older himself and will need someone to take care of him, so he’s glad he has my cell phone number. I thought that was pretty funny.
Anyhow, the point is that Upton is one of my best sources. He always calls me back, and he seems to know just about everything. So I wanted to be among the first to congratulate him on a big victory.
Upton, a senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal who’s based in Dallas, represents a gay New York couple that adopted a child from Louisiana. The state of Louisiana had refused to issue a new birth certificate listing the child’s adoptive parents. But today a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Upton’s clients. Read the full press release from Lambda Legal after the jump.
U.S. Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Lambda Legal Clients Seeking Birth
Certificate for Adopted Child
Court rules Louisiana must issue birth certificate to same-sex adoptive
(New Orleans, February 18, 2010) – The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled
today that the Louisiana Registrar of Vital Statistics must respect a New
York adoption by a same-sex couple of a Louisiana-born baby boy.
The three-member panel voted unanimously to uphold a lower court ruling in
favor of Lambda Legal clients Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith. Adar and
Smith are a gay couple who adopted their Louisiana-born son in 2006 in New
York, where a judge issued an adoption decree. When the couple attempted
to get a new birth certificate for their child, in part so Smith could add
his son to his health insurance, the registrar’s office told him that
Louisiana does not recognize adoption by unmarried parents and so could not
“Even our opponents have said this is a 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 Ken Upton, Supervising Senior
Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. “Once again, the court is saying that the
Constitution requires state officials across the country to respect the
parent-child relationships established by adoption decrees, regardless of
the state where that decree is entered.”
Lambda Legal filed suit on behalf of Adar and Smith in October 2007, saying
that the registrar was violating the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the
U.S. Constitution by refusing to recognize the New York adoption. The
Constitution requires that judgments and orders issued by a court in one
state be legally binding in other states as well. The Louisiana attorney
general disagreed, and advised the registrar that she did not have to honor
an adoption from another state that would not have been granted under
Louisiana law had the couple lived and adopted there. Last December, U.S.
District Judge Jay Zainey ruled against the registrar and issued a summary
judgment ordering her to issue a new birth certificate identifying both
Oren Adar and Mickey Smith as the boy’s parents, saying her continued
failure to do so violated the U.S. Constitution. The attorney general
appealed the case.
“We’re pleased our son will finally have a birth certificate where he sees
both his parents included,” said plaintiff Oren Adar. “A birth certificate
is more than a piece of paper; it’s at the heart of your identity.”
Upton also represented Lambda Legal clients before the 10th Circuit in
Finstuen v. Crutcher, another case involving same-sex couples with adopted
children. The court struck down an Oklahoma law so extreme that it
threatened to make children adopted by same-sex couples in other states
legal orphans when the families are in Oklahoma. The ruling is important
not only in Oklahoma, but also to families across the United States,
including in Seattle and Houston, home to two of the families who joined in
Kenneth D. Upton, Jr., Supervising Senior Staff Attorney is handling the
case for Lambda Legal. He is joined by Regina O. Matthews and Spencer R.
Doody of Martzell & Bickford in New Orleans. The case is Adar v. Smith.
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