Florida Court of Appeal Applies Full Faith & Credit Clause to Gay Adoption Issue

Pursuant to a landmark court ruling by the Second District Court of Appeal of Florida, issued May 13, 2009, Florida must give full faith and credit to adoptions granted to same-sex couples by other states. The ruling represents a significant clarification of the ambiguity surrounding Florida’s approach to recognizing legal judgments entered by other states. Based on the ruling, same-sex couples in Florida will now have the same rights as other adoptive parents. Borrowing perhaps from same-sex marriage jurisprudence, the court grounded its opinion on the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the U.S. Constitution. In doing so, the court expressly rejected the notion that any alleged “public policy” considerations were sufficient to thwart the plain meaning of the law. The case concerned the efficacy of a same-sex Washington State shared-custody judgment in Florida. The court found that the the adoptive parents’ same sex relationship was irrelevant. The National Center for Lesbian Rights represented Lara Embry, one of the parents involved in the custody matter. After moving to Florida, Embry’s partner, Kimberly Ryan, unilaterally decided to separate the children when the couple ended their relationship. Embry argued that Florida was obligated to enforce the shared-custody order issued in Washington. The Second District Court of Appeal’s decision represents a significant step forward for same-sex adoptive parents in Florida, and for adoptive parents generally, as the court recognized the importance of the adoptive parent bond.

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