A major legal victory yesterday for gay adoptions came down in the case of Finstuen v. Edmondson. The case, brought by the Lambda Legal Fund on behalf of three sets of gay parents with adopted children, challenged an Oklahoma law that forbid the state from recognizing gay adoptions from other states as legal. That law obviously threatens to break up families if they have to relocate to, or even visit, Oklahoma. As Lambda put it in their press release, the law “had the potential to make children adopted by same-sex couples in other states legal orphans when the families are in Oklahoma.” The law said:
The courts of this state shall recognize a decree, judgment, or final order creating the relationship of parent and child by adoption, issued by a court or other governmental authority with appropriate jurisdiction in a foreign country or in another state or territory of the United States. The rights and obligations of the parties as to matters within the jurisdiction of this state shall be determined as though the decree, judgment, or final order were issued by a court of this state. Except that, this state, any of its agencies, or any court of this state shall not recognize an adoption by more than one individual of the same sex from any other state or foreign jurisdiction.
The part in italics is the part that was added in 2004 with the passage of a state referendum. Federal District Judge Robin Cauthron issued a summary judgement overturning that law on Friday. The plaintiffs argued that the law violated the full faith and credit clause of the constitution, the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th amendment, and the right to travel freely. The judge found for the plaintiffs on the first three but not the last one. So that’s three separate grounds for overturning the law. An appeals court would have to overturn all three analyses in order to reverse the decision.