Exactly two weeks after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an extreme antigay Oklahoma law, the state’s Health Department announced that it would not seek further review and let the decision stand.
This is a significant victory for same-sex couples and their families. The law threatened to make children adopted by same-sex couples in other states legal orphans when the families are in Oklahoma. Now, when same-sex couples anywhere in the country have an adoption decree recognizing both of them as parents, they will know that their status as such must be honored no matter where they go.
Lambda Legal took on the case three years ago to overturn the law on behalf of three families, including Heather Finstuen and Anne Magro, then Oklahoma residents who now live in Houston, and Ed Swaya and Greg Hampel, of Seattle, to ensure that they could travel in Oklahoma without fear of losing their children. We argued that the law was unconstitutional based on the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process, as well as the Full Faith and Credit Clause, which requires that court orders (including adoption decrees) from one state must be respected and enforced in another.
The Adoption Invalidation Law, hastily passed at the end of the 2004 Oklahoma legislative session, was the only one of its kind in the country. The law threatened the welfare of children and their parents because it prevented police, health officials, child welfare officials and others from recognizing the parent-child relationships of these families. It also did not provide any protection for the children once the state severed the ties between parent and child.
- September 2004 Lambda Legal files federal lawsuit to overturn Oklahoma’s antigay “Adoption Invalidation Law,” which nullifies legal adoptions of children by same-sex couples.
- May 2006 Lambda Legal wins case in federal district court.
- October 2006 After the case is appealed, Lambda Legal files court papers arguing that the U.S. Court of Appeals should affirm the lower court ruling.
- November 2006 Lambda Legal presents oral arguments before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
- August 2007 Victory! The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejects the Oklahoma Department of Health’s challenge to a lower court decision effectively striking down the antigay Adoption Invalidation Law.