LOS ANGELES - The ACLU of Southern California applauds the California Supreme Court's decision affirming the validity of second-parent adoption, a process that allows unmarried couples, including lesbian and gay couples, to establish a legal relationship with the couples' children. The ACLU and other civil rights submitted amicus briefs in the case, which was decided in an opinion announced today.
"This decision treats same-sex couples and their families fairly and respectfully, and prevents harm to the thousands of children whose well-being and security, and whose rights to child support, inheritance, health insurance and other benefits, were threatened by the San Diego court's misreading of the adoption laws," said Martha Matthews, Bohnett Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.
The Supreme Court's decision strongly endorses second-parent adoptions as authorized by California's adoption statutes. Six out of seven California Supreme Court Justices voted to reverse a decision of the California Court of Appeal in San Diego, which had caused confusion and uncertainty among thousands of California families, by holding that California's adoption laws do not permit second-parent adoptions.
The majority opinion by Justice Werdegar clearly recognized that children of same-sex and other unmarried couples have the same needs for security, stability and legal recognition of actual parental relationships as all other children: "Second parent adoption can secure...legally recognized parentage for a child of a nonbiological parent who otherwise must remain a legal stranger," and can provide "the security and advantages of two parents for some of California's neediest children."
The Court also pointed out the availability of second-parent adoptions "has created settled expectations among many different types of adoptive families," including not only same-sex and unmarried couples who have children through artificial insemination, but families who have adopted children from foster care and 'kinship' adoptions in which a grandparent or other relative becomes a child's second legal parent.
In California, thousands of second parent adoptions have been granted over the past fifteen years, but no appeal court had ruled on their validity until this case arose. In recent years, the concept of second-parent adoption has spread throughout the country. California has now joined eight other jurisdictions in which appellate courts have approved second-parent adoptions, including the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Also, three state legislatures, California, Connecticut, and Vermont, have enacted adoption statutes that explicitly permit same-sex partners to adopt.