The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled this week that adoptions by stepparents are allowed only when the stepparent is married to the child’s biological parent. In a catch-22, same-sex stepparents cannot therefore adopt because Kentucky has a constitutional amendment banning marriage of same-sex couples. The ruling holds regardless of whether the person was involved in every aspect of the child’s creation or came along afterwards. The Court avoided the term “second-parent adoption,” used in other jurisdictions when a non-biological parent adopts a same-sex partner’s biological child, because “there is no statutory authority for ‘second-parent adoption’ in Kentucky.”

The ruling was based on the case of a lesbian couple who had a child together and then split. The non-biological parent then adopted the child with her former partner’s approval. The partner then tried to have the adoption revoked, but a lower court refused because she had waited more than a year to do so. State law says adoptions cannot be reversed for any reason after that time. It looks like things have turned out as well as can be expected for this family, then, but the precedent the case sets is chilling.

For more on the case from an actual lawyer with vast experience regarding same-sex families, see Nancy Polikoff’s blog. Polikoff also notes that she herself allowed her former partner to adopt the child Polikoff had adopted as a single parent. She has a few choice words for biological parents who treat non-biological parents as anything less than equal.

The only heartening thing in this otherwise depressing news is that the Louisville Courier-Journal published an editorial opposing the ruling, indicating that opinions in the Bluegrass State, even among the general population, are far from uniformly anti-LGBT. The editorial notes that the ruling, while “technically correct,” was far from fair:

The Court of Appeals was bound and supported by the constitution and statutes in this ruling.

But clearly the laws are hurtful to families and children. The earlier they can be reconsidered, the better.

As is so often the case, children are paying for shortsighted legal and procedural answers to personal and societal issues. Shouldn’t children have the benefit of two loving parents, gay or straight?

Equality is not an option in the United States. Sooner or later, gay people will enjoy the same rights and protections as everyone else.

It needs to be sooner. For our part, that means Kentucky must recognize that its unfair laws punish our gay citizens for being gay.

More than that, they punish our children.