An Antigay Lawyer Targeted Our Family and Now Others Are at Risk

stuart kyle duncan

After being together for a number of years, my partner and I decided to start a family. We adopted our son, who was born in the state of Louisiana, and obtained an adoption decree in the state of New York where we reside. 

After the adoption proceedings, it became apparent that we needed to amend our son’s birth certificate. He was experiencing health issues, as he was born pre-maturely, and we needed his birth certificate to list us as legal parents in order to add him to our health insurance plan.

We contacted the Louisiana state registrar and sent them a copy of our adoption decree, asking them to amend the birth certificate to list us as his parents. They responded stating that they would put only one of us on the certificate, later refusing to update it for us at all. When we objected, the Louisiana registrar contacted the Louisiana Attorney General’s office about the issue and that’s when Kyle Duncan got involved.

It quickly became clear that Mr. Duncan was not simply a lawyer defending a client, but rather that he was an ideologue committed to denying legal recognition to same-sex couples. Rather than process a simple amendment that would have enabled us to take the best care possible of our child, Mr. Duncan commandeered tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars money into a campaign to deny the legal recognition of our family. 

We challenged the denial in federal court and were granted relief by a District Court judge. Rather than letting this go, and allowing us to get on with our lives, Mr. Duncan appealed our case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where we won again. Even then, Mr. Duncan refused to relent, and appealed again, this time to a full panel of the Fifth Circuit, where he finally succeeded in his quest to deny our child an accurate birth certificate.  We tried, but were unable to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to take our case. Kyle Duncan had succeeded in his quest to erase our family from this incredibly important legal document in our child’s life, and there was nothing left for us to do about it. 

The practical impact on our family was significant. Registering for school and renewing our health insurance each year became a stressful and complicated situation. Likewise, traveling was often harrowing. On one occasion, while going through security at an airport, a TSA agent demanded a birth certificate for our son. We lived with the fear that our child’s inaccurate birth certificate could harm him in other ways.  We worried that, if one of us were to die, our child’s ability to access social security survivor benefits might be called into question because Kyle Duncan ensured that his birth certificate failed to reflect that he has two legal parents.

The emotional aspect was equally devastating. One of the things that affected us the most was the basic unfairness of being denied something so common, yet important. We did everything a person is supposed to do. We paid our taxes, obtained a valid adoption decree and complied with every requirement, but in the end, our family didn’t fit within Mr. Duncan’s worldview, and he was determined to use his position to render our family second-class.  

In 2015, we held our breaths as Mr. Duncan again stood before the Fifth Circuit using the same offensive arguments to defend Louisiana’s marriage laws that discriminated against same-sex couples. Fortunately, before that court had a chance to rule, the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that a fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples under the U.S. Constitution. We called the Louisiana registrar, who surprised us by letting us know that they had been waiting for our call – they said that our amendment would be the first birth certificate they issued after Obergefell.

All we had to do was send a check – and that’s all it should have ever taken. We never gave up on trying to secure all of the legal protection entitled to our child, but Kyle Duncan did everything in his power to make that quest costlier – in time, money and energy – than it ever should have had to be.

Mr. Duncan’s record, of which our story is only a part, makes plain that he cannot be trusted to fairly administer justice to LGBT litigants, and therefore should not confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Oren Adar 750
OREN ADAR lives with his family in Florida.

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