California likely to uphold second-parent adoptions

BY Advocate.com Editors

May 09 2003 12:00 AM ET

The California supreme court on Wednesday appeared to be leaning toward upholding gay and lesbian couples' rights to second-parent adoptions, the Los Angeles Times reports. Such adoptions allow one parent to adopt a child without the biological parent relinquishing parental rights. In 1986 California became the first state in the nation to recognize such adoptions. 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.

During the supreme court hearing on Wednesday, however, several justices suggested that the appeals court had taken the wording of state law too literally. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdeger said state law is merely "descriptive" of traditional adoptions, not prohibitive of an untraditional one. And Chief Justice Ronald M. George said that trial judges are in a better position than the appeals court to determine "the best interest of the child"--the legal test for approving adoption.

A ruling in the case is expected in 90 days.

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