Right after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June that the federal government must recognize marriages of same-sex couples, I warned that this was not a reason for us to stop getting second-parent adoptions. Now, a New York judge has shown she just doesn’t understand that.
Moms Amalia and Melissa had their son in New York, and set about getting a second-parent adoption for Amalia, the nonbiological mother. Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court judge Margarita López Torres, ruled, however, that because the couple was married in the state, which allowed them both to be on their son’s birth certificate, “Amalia was already the child’s parent and could not adopt him,” reports the New York Times.
As many of you know (and all of you should), when a nonbio mom is on a child’s birth certificate because her state recognizes her marriage to the bio mom, her status as a legal parent might not be recognized in another state that does not recognize the marriage. Only an adoption or court order, which establishes a relationship between the nonbio mom and the child regardless of marital status, will be recognized in all other states. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get both moms names on the birth certificate from the start — that gives you immediate in-state protection while you wait for the adoption to go through.)
Torres’ ruling means that Amalia and Melissa and their son lack a significant protection, especially because Amalia has family in Florida and Nicaragua, neither of which recognizes their marriage. The NYT reports that Torres wrote: “true marriage equality remains yet to be attained” and “a same-sex marriage remains somehow insufficient to establish a parent-child relationship.” She told the paper, “her decision flowed from her strong belief that all married couples, gay or straight, should be treated equally.”
I can’t argue with those statements — but given the many second-parent adoptions that have already been given out in states with marriage equality, I wonder what Torres was really trying to accomplish by ruling as she did. Clearly, needing to adopt a child one planned for and plans to raise with a spouse is ridiculous, but it is the only protection we have at the moment. Torres’ goal of treating all families equally is admirable until one realizes same-sex headed families are not equal. Treating us as equal isn’t right because it denies our children important protections, thus treating them unfairly.
There seems to be misunderstanding about second-parent adoptions even from people who should know better, though: When the Virginia Senate did not pass a bill to legalize second-parent adoption last week, Metro Weekly reported that James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, said “there may be a chance that upcoming court cases could force Virginia to accept marriage equality, which would make a second-parent adoption bill unnecessary, as same-sex couples with children would be legally recognized as spouses and parents.”
No. No, no, no. Second-parent adoptions would still be necessary for any family that ever travels to a state where their marriage is not recognized.
Let’s hope Amalia and Melissa appeal their case and the next judge better understands the situation.