Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Supreme Court Asked to Address Alabama Same-Sex Custody Ruling

A woman in Alabama is asking the Supreme Court to reverse a decision made by the Alabama courts regarding custody of her children. The woman, known as "V.L.", shares three children with her ex-partner, who is their biological mother. Although they were never legally married, the pair moved to Georgia together to receive more parental rights as a same-sex couple, including legal adoption by V.L.
As these rights are not included in Alabama law, upon returning to the state, V.L.'s rights as a parent were voided and she is now denied access to her children. The argument made by Alabama justices is that, based on the fact that "Georgia law makes no provision for a non-spouse to adopt a child without first terminating the parental rights of the current parents", the state of Georgia essentially broke their own law by recognizing V.L. as a legal guardian of her children without terminating the parental rights of V.L.'s ex-partner.
However, V.L. maintains that she should still have the rights guaranteed to her by the state of Georgia, and that Alabama has broken the Full Faith and Credit Clause ("Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state") by voiding her rights as a parent.
Interestingly enough, while the Alabama laws on same-sex adoption are seen as "terrifying" (Cathy Sakimura; National Center for Lesbian Rights) by LGBT+ rights groups, the courts seem to be sidestepping the issue. Instead, they seem to be determining this case based purely on interpretation of the Constitution.
It is unknown whether or not the Supreme Court will take the case, but LGBT+ activists are hoping they will, as a win in favor of V.L. would further legitimize same-sex couples as deserving of the same rights as different-sex parents.

-Who do you believe is more in the constitutional right in this case? Alabama or V.L.? Why or why not?
-Why do you think the courts are avoiding the fact that the case has to do with a same-sex couple?



Emma Mester said...

I think this is complicated because it is about states' rights v. honoring a previous agreement/law. In this case, I think that V.L. should regain custody of her children because it was fairly given to her.
Maybe a reason why the gay rights issue is avoided is because it complicates the case even further. Now it is states' rights v. honoring a previous agreement/law v. doing what is "morally right" (in some people's minds, not mine). As is well known, the South is not super understanding or helpful for the gay community, and often tries to stand in the way. If that aspect of the case isn't brought in, there is less chance for bias. Also, the actual case does not have to do with a same-sex couple having custody over the child, so it would almost be like needless information.

Langston Swiecki said...

I mainly agree with Emma that this case is not mainly defined by the fact that this involves a same-sex couple, but is rather a question over the scope of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. As a result of this, it makes sense for the Supreme Court to largely ignore the case, as any precedent set will be convoluted at best. Even if the court picked it up and ruled in favor of V.L., it would not really benefit the legitimacy of same sex couples in a strong manner, for this case is about more than that, something that can be used to marginalize the decision later on. A case, to make a large impact, generally has to be about a specific confounding question and address this to impart meaningful change, like Brown v. Board or Miranda v. Arizona. The schools of Kansas were targeted in Brown v. Board because they were good institutions, removing all potential complications and allowing the court to forcefully say that separate is inherently unequal, even under the most equal conditions that existed at this time. Ernesto Miranda had previous experience with the police, so to make the decision with him to make sure suspects are made aware of their rights added credibility, for it showed that it was about the principle behind the case and less about the specifics of the case itself. For the V.L. case, the principle to either be upheld or smacked down is not well defined, and thus there is less point in the Supreme Court choosing to see the case. Under the FFaC clause, it seems that Alabama should respect the public act carried out by Georgia even if it was not completely lawful, or then Alabama would in some way looking into the correctness of Georgia's actions, a role it does not have under the constitution. It does not address the fairness of the law in general as pertaining to the LGBT community and seems to have limited reach in this regard.

Louis Villa said...

I think it is important that the Supreme court works on cementing their position on same sex marriage into precedent. With clerks and judges like Kim Davis, who want to oppose the ruling, it is important to guarantee same sex couples access to certain opportunities, such as marriage, despite their location in the country.