California top court reviews adoption

BY Advocate.com Editors

May 07 2003 11:00 PM ET

The California supreme court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case challenging a lower court ruling that state law prohibits second-parent adoption for gay and lesbian parents, The [San Jose] Mercury News reports. In 1986 California became the first state in the nation to recognize second-parent adoptions, which allow a nonbiological parent to adopt a child without the biological parent relinquishing parental rights. Since then, thousands of gay and lesbian couples have taken advantage of such adoptions so that their children can be raised with two fully legal parents.

In 2001, however, a state appeals court in San Diego ruled that nothing in the state law permits second-parent adoption. The ruling came in the case of a lesbian couple, identified as Sharon S. and Annette F. in court documents. During their 10-year relationship, Sharon S. gave birth to a child whom Annette F. adopted through a second-parent adoption. Annette F. was in the process of going through a second-parent adoption for another child Sharon S. conceived through artificial insemination when the couple broke up. Sharon S. balked at allowing Annette F. to proceed with the adoption. A trial court initially sided with Annette F., but the appeals court came down on Sharon S.'s side, saying adoption cannot occur without the biological parent relinquishing parental rights.

"It was like somebody had let off a grenade in the lobby," said Kate Kendall, executive director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, who was at a legal conference in Dallas when she heard about the appeals court ruling. "We were all shocked and stunned. It felt so personal."

Since the appeals court ruling, California has passed a law allowing couples who register as domestic partners to adopt their partners' children by using the state's stepparent adoption program. But legal experts say the second-parent adoption option is still important because the stepparent option is invalid if the couple later breaks up.

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