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Supreme Court declines to hear gay adoption case

Advocates say decision lets stand a ‘dangerous’ ruling



U.S. Supreme Court (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Tuesday it won’t hear an appeal of a case that sought to protect adoption rights for gay couples.

The court denied the petition for a writ of certiorari, which was filed by Lambda Legal, in the case of Adar v. Smith. Justices didn’t offer a comment on why they wouldn’t hear the lawsuit, which effectively ended the path for the litigation.

Kenneth Upton, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda’s south central regional office in Dallas, said the Supreme Court is “leaving untouched a dangerous” previously issued ruling that leaves same-sex parents who have adopted or plan to adopt “treated differently from state to state.”

“By denying this writ, the Supreme Court is leaving untouched a dangerous Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that carves out an exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution and to the uniformly recognized respect for judgments that states have come to rely upon,” Upton said. “This decision leaves adopted children and their parents vulnerable in their interactions with officials from other states.”

The case involves Oren Adar and Mickey Smith, a gay couple who in 2006 adopted their Louisiana-born son in New York, where a judge issued an adoption decree. In 2007, the couple attempted to obtain a new birth certificate for their child in part so Smith could extend his health insurance coverage to his son.

However, State Registrar Darlene Smith wouldn’t issue a certificate with both adopted parents’ names, saying Louisiana doesn’t recognize adoption by unmarried parents.

In October 2007, Lambda filed a lawsuit on the basis that the registrar was violating the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause and Equal Protection Clause. Lambda argued that under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, judgments issued by a court in one state, such as New York, must be legally binding in other states, such as Louisiana.

Judges have ruled in varying ways as the lawsuit has made its way through the courts. In 2008, a U.S. district court ruled in favor of plaintiffs and ordered the Louisiana registrar to issue a new birth certificate identifying both Adar and Mickey Smith as the parents. In 2010, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the judgment.

However, under appeal, a ten-member majority of the full Fifth Circuit in April issued a decision ruling in favor of the Louisiana registrar and overturning the prior decisions. The Supreme Court’s decision not to take up the case leaves the appellate court’s decision as it stands.

Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, expressed sadness over the high court’s decision not to take up the case.

“My heart breaks for these parents, and for children across the country who lack the legal relationship with their parents,” Chrisler said. “A growing number of LGBT parents are creating their families through adoption and although they are bound together by love, we cannot allow states to deny them legal recognition.”

Lambda’s Upton said advocates will take up the issue with the Louisiana state legislature to ensure same-sex couples have protections for their adopted children.

“This issue now moves into the legislative arena,” Upton said. “We need to push for a change in Louisiana state policy in order to stabilize and standardize respect for parent-child relationships for all adoptive children.”

Whether the push for change at the state level will be successful remains to be seen. The Louisiana House is controlled by Republicans; while the Senate has a Democratic majority. Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is known for holding anti-gay views.

Jennifer Pizer, legal director of the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the Supreme Court’s decision lets stand a “troubling precedent” that could impact not just adoption but also other family rights and court judgments.

“And, yes, to be clear, the implications for LGBT people are potentially very substantial,” Pizer continued. “As states continue to diverge — with some offering full equality to LGBT people and others still moving firmly in the other direction — interstate questions are likely to proliferate, especially with respect to family issues involving same-sex couples, transgender people, and their children.”

Pizer said the push to have the Supreme Court take up the case was “an exceedingly long shot” because justices only accept “a tiny fraction of review petitions” each year. Over the course of the upcoming years, Pizer said she expects the Fifth Circuit’s reasoning will likely be rejected by other courts “as inconsistent” with the purpose of the Full Faith and Credit Clause.

“It is not uncommon for the U.S. Supreme Court to wait until a split develops among federal circuits, sketching out the different ways an issue can be seen and the scope of consequences in the various cases, before taking a case like this,” Pizer continued. “But it’s difficult for those affected during that process, especially when a new limiting principle newly closes courthouse doors and the needs of parents and children are ignored and, in most instances, ultimately denied.”



Federal judge halts enforcement of Fla. trans healthcare ban

Advocacy groups challenged Senate Bill 254



A federal judge has halted enforcement of a Florida law that bans gender-affirming health care for transgender youth. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

In his 44 page ruling, Judge Robert Hinkle of the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida has barred the state from any further enforcement action against transgender youth or their parents from seeking appropriate gender-affirming care.

Hinkle’s ruling allows Florida parents challenging the ban to access necessary medical care for their trans children while the legal challenge to the bans continues. The ruling blocks enforcement of Florida state Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine rules banning established medical care for trans adolescents as well as provisions in Senate Bill 254 that codify those rules into state law with added criminal and civil penalties.

In his summary Hinkle wrote: “Gender identity is real. Those whose gender identity does not match their natal sex often suffer gender dysphoria. The widely accepted standard of care calls for evaluation and treatment by a multidisciplinary team. Proper treatment begins with mental health therapy and is followed in appropriate cases by GnRH agonists and cross-sex hormones. Florida has adopted a statute and rules that prohibit these treatments even when medically appropriate.”

In today’s ruling the court indicated that the plaintiff parents are likely to succeed in their claims that SB 254 and the Boards of Medicine rules unconstitutionally strip them of the right to make informed decisions about their children’s medical treatment and violate the equal protection rights of trans youth by denying them medically necessary, doctor-recommended healthcare.

The challenge to the Boards of Medicine and SB 254 healthcare bans is likely to proceed quickly to trial.

The families are represented by Southern Legal Counsel, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign, which issued the following statement:

“Today’s ruling is a powerful affirmation of the humanity of transgender people, the efficacy of well-established, science-based medical care, and of the rights of parents to make informed healthcare decisions for their children. The court recognized the profound harm the state of Florida is causing by forcing parents to watch their kids suffer rather than provide them with safe and effective care that will allow them to thrive. We are incredibly relieved that these Florida parents can continue to get healthcare for their children while we proceed to challenge these bans and eventually see them fully overturned.”

Read the ruling:

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Events roundup: Federal gov’t celebrates Pride month

Bidens to host White House Pride reception on Thursday



U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (Photo courtesy DHS)

The White House, U.S. federal agencies, and Congress are honoring Pride month with a slate of official and unofficial events this year, many taking place this week.

Details for some events have not yet been announced, so this article will be updated when new information becomes available – such as details about the U.S. State Department’s Pride reception, which is expected to happen later this month.

  • The U.S. Department of the Interior kicked off Pride month with a celebration on June 1, where DoI Secretary Deb Haaland raised the Progress Pride Flag alongside members of Interior’s LGBTQ community.
  • Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs hosted a flag raising ceremony on June 1 at the John A. Wilson Building. The Mayor’s Office is also sponsoring a District of Pride Showcase at the Lincoln Theatre on June 29.
  • On June 2, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security held a flag raising ceremony at the agency’s headquarters with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
  • Speaker Emerita U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will throw out the ceremonial first pitch during the Washington Nationals Night OUT game on Tuesday, Major League Baseball’s longest-running annual Pride event. The Speaker will be honored this year for her advancement of LGBTQ civil rights throughout her career in Congress.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense’s DoD Pride, an LGBTQ employee resource group for service members and DoD civilian employees, will hold its annual Pride month event on June 7 at the Pentagon.
  • President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden are hosting a Pride month celebration on the South Lawn of the White House on June 8, which will feature a performance by singer-songwriter Betty Who.
  • The LGBTQ Victory Fund’s June 22 Federal PAC Reception will feature LGBTQ members of Congress: U.S. Reps. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Eric Sorensen (D-Ill.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Robert Garcia (D-Calf.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.).
  • On June 28, Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff are hosting a reception in celebration of Pride at the Vice President’s residence, in collaboration with GLAAD.
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Same-sex marriage support remains strong at 71 percent high

Supreme Court issued Obergefell ruling in 2015



A Gallup Poll released Monday showed that support for same-sex marriage is maintaining a position of 71 percent of Americans who think it should be legal, matching the previous year’s percentage.

Gallup noted that public support for legally recognizing gay marriages has been consistently above 50 percent since the early 2010s.

The latest figures are from Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 1-24.

When Gallup first polled about same-sex marriage in 1996, barely a quarter of the public (27 percent) supported legalizing such unions. It would take another 15 years, until 2011, for support to reach the majority level. Then in 2015, just one month before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, public support for legalizing gay marriage cracked the 60 percent level. In 2021, it reached the 70 percent mark for the first time and has been there each of the past three years.

Support Relatively Low Among Republicans, Weekly Churchgoers

Gallup has recorded increases in support for same-sex marriage across all major subgroups over time. Today, majorities of all but two key subgroups — Republicans (49 percent) and weekly churchgoers (41 percent) — say gay marriages should be legally recognized.

Republican support for gay marriage has hovered around the 50 percent mark since 2020, with slight majorities backing it in 2021 and 2022. The latest 49 percent recorded for this group is statistically similar to the level of support Gallup has recorded in recent years.

Like all other subgroups, weekly churchgoers (41 percent) are more supportive of gay marriage now than they were in the previous two decades. However, their level of support has been steady since 2018 — ranging between 40 percent and 44 percent.

Bottom line

Same-sex marriage has received majority support in the U.S. for over a decade, and support has been on an upward trajectory for most of Gallup’s polling since 1996.

Gay marriage became the law of the land after the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision, and President Joe Biden signed bipartisan legislation to ward off future judicial attempts at undoing its legality late last year.

Among many groups — including older adults, Protestants and residents of the South — perspectives on gay marriage have gone from majority opposition to majority support over the course of Gallup’s trend spanning more than a quarter of a century. But two groups remain holdouts on the issue, with Republicans evenly divided on the legality of same-sex unions and weekly churchgoers maintaining their position against it.

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