Same-Sex Parent Adoption Recognized By Supreme Court

On March 7, 2016, the United States Supreme Court, in V.L. v. E.L., recognized second parent adoption, which allows a second parent of the same gender as the biological parent to adopt a child without terminating the biological parent’s parental rights.

In the case, two Alabama women were involved in a relationship from 1995-2011. Using assisted reproductive technology, E.L. gave birth to three children, a child born in 2002 and twins born in 2004. Together, the women raised the children. In 2006, the couple and their three children, moved temporarily to Georgia in order to be granted an adoption under Georgia’s more favorable adoption laws. In Georgia, a state court permitted V.L., with the consent of E.L., to become an adoptive parent to the children.

In 2011, the couple split up and the issue of visitation arose. On October 31, 2013, V.L filed a complaint in Alabama requesting the court recognize the Georgia adoption decree and grant visitation. The Alabama Supreme Court refused to recognize the second parent adoption that occurred in Georgia. However, under the IV Amendment “full faith and credit clause,” the courts of one state cannot set aside judgments of another state’s courts just because the out-of- state judges disagree with the decision. In family matters specifically, 28 USC §1738 states that courts must honor the custody and visitation judgments made in other states. The U.S. Supreme Court held that Alabama had to recognize the adoption completed in Georgia. This decision allowed V.L. to retain her legal adoptive status as a parent of the three children, and allowed her to pursue her parental rights.

The decision in V.L. v. E.L. has several important implications. First, it sends a message to state courts that the “full faith and credit clause” cannot be misplaced when a court disapproves of another state’s order. Second, it honors legal adoption, from state to state, whether in a same sex couple situation or a traditional family setting. And finally, it suggests that the Court has placed importance on preserving parent-child relationships.