NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana officials said Wednesday they plan to appeal a federal judge's order to put the names of two adoptive fathers on the birth certificate of their Louisiana-born son.
"The District Court has ordered Louisiana to do more than what the Constitution requires, and we will ask a federal court of appeals to correct that mistake," state Health Secretary Alan Levine said.
U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey in New Orleans ordered the state Office of Vital Records last week to put the names of Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith, a same-sex couple who adopted a boy born in Shreveport in 2005, on the amended birth certificate that is standard for adoptions.
They now live in San Diego, Calif., but the adoption became formal in April 2006 in New York, where officials decided earlier this month that same-sex couples could list both their names on their children's birth certificates.
"We must respectfully disagree with the idea that New York's adoption law controls how Louisiana administers its own registry of birth certificates and other vital records," Levine said in a statement e-mailed late Tuesday. Under Louisiana law, a single person or a married couple may adopt a child, but two single people may not.
Levine said health department lawyers, the attorney general's office and the governor's executive counsel are reviewing Zainey's ruling.
"It's sad they're going to make this poor child and his family wait longer than they've already waited," said Kenneth Upton, a Dallas lawyer who represented Adar and Smith in a lawsuit filed against the Office of Vital Records in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.
Similar, unrelated cases in Oklahoma, Virginia and Mississippi were decided in the adoptive parents' favor, with the Mississippi case decided at trial about a month ago, Upton said.
Zainey wrote last week that the facts were so clear that no trial was needed. Louisiana's Office of Vital Records must give full faith and credit to the New York state court in which Adar and Smith adopted the boy, he ruled.
Louisiana law requires a new certificate when an adoption decree is received, and the law does not include limits or restrictions, Zainey wrote. He said the state's arguments would make the adoption law's "plain language ... meaningless by reading in restrictions and requirements that simply are not present in the text of the statute."
Adar and Smith say they have practical and emotional reasons for wanting both of their names on the birth certificate of the boy, identified only as "J.C. A.-S."
Because Smith's name wasn't on the document, his employer initially refused to enroll the child on his insurance, Smith wrote in a sworn statement. Smith, an accountant, is the family's breadwinner. The administrator eventually agreed to cover the boy, but "I am forced to go through this process each and every year" to keep him insured, Smith wrote.
"As an adopted child myself, I understand the need a child has to feel like he or she belongs," Smith wrote. "I remember as a child wanting to see my own birth certificate and to see my parents listed because it gave me a sense of belonging, a sense of identity and a sense of dignity."
Adar also said the family often travels, and because the boy is black and they are white, an airline worker once stopped them, thinking they were kidnapping the child. "Every time we fly, we fear this could happen again," he wrote.