Yesterday, the Fifth Circuit issued its decision in Adar v. Smith. This case concerns Louisiana’s refusal to issue an amended birth certificate to an out-of-state same-sex couple who adopted a child born in Louisiana. The State of Louisiana had lost in the federal district court and had appealed to the Fifth Circuit. While the appeal was pending, the Louisiana House of Representatives thumbed its collective nose at the federal district court’s decision by passing a bill that would prohibit birth certificates from being revised to show the names of two adoptive parents who are unmarried. That bill later died in the Louisiana Senate.
In its decision yesterday, the Fifth Circuit unanimously and resoundingly rejected every argument proffered by the state’s Registrar of Vital Statistics. Indeed, the attorney who argued the case for the state was quoted as saying that “the 36-page opinion written by Judge Jaques L. Wiener, Jr. ‘is a thorough rejection of the state’s position.’” The court held that (1) the parents had standing to challenge the Registrar’s decision, (2) the Full Faith and Credit Clause applied and Louisiana must recognize the same-sex couple as the child’s adoptive parents, and (3) the Registrar must, under Louisiana law, issue an amended birth certificate that reflects the names of both of the child’s adoptive parents. The opinion leaves the distinct impression that the judges had little patience for some of the arguments that the Registrar proffered, including interpretations of the Full Faith and Credit Clause that flew in the face of precedent and an attempt at reading into state law an unconstitutional delegation of unfettered discretion to her to determine which out-of-state adoptive parents, if any, are entitled to an amended birth certificate. Amazingly, the state apparently plans to ask for a stay of the court’s decision and a rehearing in this case.