MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Supreme Court refused Friday to recognize a lesbian woman's adoptions of her ex-partner's children that were granted in Georgia.
The Alabama justices said a Georgia court was wrong to allow the adoptions, arguing that Georgia law doesn't allow such second-parent adoptions.
The woman in 2007 adopted the three children that her female partner gave birth to during their 16-year relationship. However, Alabama's high court overturned an Alabama family court decision that recognized the Georgia adoption and granted the woman, who now lives in Alabama, visitation rights.
The Alabama justices said "Georgia law makes no provision for a non-spouse to adopt a child without first terminating the parental rights of the current parents."
The justices said since the children's biological mother maintained her parental rights, the Georgia court "was not empowered to enter the Georgia judgment declaring (her) to be an adoptive parent of the children."
Cathy Sakimura, family law director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said her client is devastated because she helped raise the children since birth. She said the Georgia court granted the adoption and it was improper for the Alabama to refuse to recognize that decision.
"Even though we have marriage equality there are still these challenges for same-sex parents in being recognized as a family," Sakimura said.
Sakimura said her client is exploring the possibility of appealing the decision to the United States Supreme Court.
The women, referred to in the court opinion only by their initials, V.L. and E.L., were a couple for 16 years and planned to have children together, according to court documents. The latter woman gave birth to a child in 2002 and twins in 2004.
After the Alabama decision, Sakimura released a statement from her client saying: "I am just a Mom who wanted and prayed for these children and raised them from birth, and I hope every day that we can be together again."
The couple primarily lived in Hoover, Ala. but for a time rented a home in Alpharetta, Ga. after being advised by friends that courts in Atlanta were friendlier to same-sex couple's adoption requests. The Georgia court approved the adoption petition in 2007, and a new birth certificate was issued listing both women as parents.
After the couple ended their relationship, the biological mother argued the Georgia adoption was invalid. She said they weren't residents of Georgia and only stayed in Georgia home two nights as they tried to get the adoption approved.
Alabama Justice Greg Shaw, the lone dissenter in the case, said he feared that the decision would create a "dangerous precedent" that could call into question the finality of many adoptions in Alabama.