As an adoptive parent, I could not have been more pleased to read the outcome of the case of V.L. v. E.L., announced by the United States Supreme Court on March 7, 2016. In this case, the Court upheld a woman’s adoption of three children born to her same sex partner. The opinion, which addresses jurisdiction and full faith and credit issues, provides comfort to adoptive parents that their parental rights should not be diminished.
Two women, E.L. and V.L., were involved in a 16 year relationship from 1995-2011. They lived in Alabama. Using assisted reproductive technology, E.L. gave birth to a child in 2002 and twins in 2004. The two women raised the children together from birth. During the relationship, they rented a house in Georgia and used the more favorable Georgia adoption laws to have V.L. legally adopt the children while E.L. (the biological mom) retained her rights as well. This is often referred to as “second parent adoption.” The adoption was completed in Georgia.
The parties never married or had a civil union. They later separated, while living in Alabama. V.L. (the adoptive mom) moved out of the house and subsequently filed a petition alleging that E.L. had denied her access to the children and interfered with her parental rights. V.L. asked the Alabama court to recognize the Georgia adoption so that she could continue to jointly raise her children, as she had been doing prior to the separation. E.L. (the biological mom) argued that the Georgia adoption should not be recognized in Alabama and therefore V.L. had no parental rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court held that Alabama had to recognize the adoption completed in Georgia. This meant that V.L. retained her legal adoptive status as a parent of the three children and could pursue her rights to joint custody and parenting time. While the ruling focused on a jurisdiction analysis, the import of the ruling is that legal adoption is to be honored, from state to state, whether in a same sex couple situation or otherwise.
As an adoptive parent, this significant ruling confirms for me and many other families united by adoption that love, not blood, makes a family. Thankfully, the law agrees.