Nebraska settles HIV adoption case
February 24 2004 12:00 AM ET
The state of Nebraska has reached a settlement with a Lincoln man who sued the state nine years ago for denying his late wife, who was HIV-positive, a chance to adopt a baby. Both parties signed an agreement saying they would not disclose the financial terms of the settlement. Jay Brummett and his wife, GayLynn, had fought to adopt a boy who was placed with them as a state ward in 1992 when he was 3 months old. GayLynn died soon after a Nebraska supreme court ruling in 1996 cleared the way for the couple to adopt the child.
When the couple first applied to adopt their son, the state's Department of Health and Human Services opposed the action because GayLynn was HIV-positive. The state contended that it was not prejudiced against people with HIV, but that her illness made it unlikely that she would be able to parent Noah to adulthood. The boy was then taken out of the couple's care and placed in another foster home in 1995. Despite a ruling by the Nebraska court of appeals that it was in the child's best interest to be adopted by the Brummetts, the state still refused to allow the child to be returned to the couple until the state supreme court ruling a year later.
With help from the American Civil Liberties Union, Brummett sued the state that year, seeking damages for the emotional strain that was put on him and his late wife. "This case was the longest-lasting case in the history of ACLU Nebraska, and we consider the terms of the settlement fully acceptable and vindicating the reasons we brought the lawsuit," state ACLU executive director Tim Butz said. As part of the settlement, the state said it would not discriminate in the administration of its foster care and adoption programs against prospective parents with HIV or AIDS. The state also has rewritten the regulations that were used to justify the denial of the initial adoption of the child.