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Judge: Adoptive dads belong on birth certificate

A same-sex couple in California has won a federal court ruling that their adopted son's Louisiana birth certificate must bear the names of both adoptive fathers.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A same-sex couple in California has won a federal court ruling that their adopted son's Louisiana birth certificate must bear the names of both adoptive fathers.

The facts are so clear that no trial is needed, U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey wrote.

Louisiana's Office of Vital Records must give full faith and credit to the New York State court in which Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith of San Diego adopted the boy, he ruled Monday. The office had refused to issue a birth certificate listing both as the boy's legal parents. The state could appeal the decision.

Adar and Smith say they have practical and emotional reasons for wanting both of their names on the birth certificate of the boy, identified only as "J.C. A.-S."

Because Smith's name wasn't on the document, his employer initially refused to enroll the child on his insurance, Smith wrote in a sworn statement. Smith, an accountant, is the family's breadwinner.

The administrator eventually agreed to cover the boy, but "I am forced to go through this process each and every year" to keep him insured, Smith wrote.

"As an adopted child myself, I understand the need a child has to feel like he or she belongs," Smith wrote. "I remember as a child wanting to see my own birth certificate and to see my parents listed because it gave me a sense of belonging, a sense of identity and a sense of dignity."

Adar also said the family often travels, and — because J. is black and they are white — an airline worker once stopped them, thinking that they were kidnapping the child. "Every time we fly we fear this could happen again," he wrote.

J. was born about eight weeks prematurely in Shreveport, in late 2005. He spent his first month in the hospital, and weighed 5 pounds when his mother gave him to Adar and Smith that December, according to Adar's statement.

Their adoption was made final on April 27, 2006, their lawsuit states.

Refusing to name both fathers on the birth certificate "singles out unmarried same-sex couples and their adoptive children for unequal treatment for the improper purpose of making them unequal to everyone else," said the lawsuit filed by Regina O. Matthews of New Orleans and Kenneth D. Upton Jr. of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc. of Dallas.

Louisiana law does not let two unmarried people adopt a child together, regardless of sex, wrote Carol L. Haynes, representing the state health department and registrar Darlene W. Smith.

Earlier this month, New York state officials decided to let married same-sex couples list both their names on their children's birth certificates.

Zainey wrote that Louisiana law requires a new certificate when it gets an adoption decree, and the law does not include any limits or restrictions. The state's arguments would make the adoption law's "plain language ... meaningless by reading in restrictions and requirements that simply are not present in the text of the statute," he wrote.

The Louisiana vital records office is part of the state Department of Health and Hospitals. Neither Haynes nor a DHH spokeswoman immediately answered a query e-mailed Saturday about whether Louisiana will appeal.