Amicus Brief Filed To The Supreme Court Highlights Voices Of Children Adopted By Same-Sex Couples

“As a young child, I worried what would happen to me if tragedy struck our families such as illness, death, or parental separation, that would separate me from [her non-biological mother] Sibbie, who had no legal rights to take care of me. Now that I am almost a legal adult, I worry that I will have no lawful rights to take care of Sibbie as she ages.” – Elliott Emfinger, 18, who was raised by her two mothers in Birmingham, Alabama


December 17, 2015

Family Equality Council urges Supreme Court to reverse dangerous Alabama Supreme Court decision that voided an eight-year-old Georgia adoption


Washington, D.C. — Today Family Equality Council, along with COLAGE and the Campaign for Southern Equality, filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court supporting the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ petition for certiorari on behalf of an adoptive parent known as “V.L.” She is seeking to overturn the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision to void the adoption of her children.

V.L. and “E.L.” were in a long-term same-sex relationship. They planned for and raised three children together via donor insemination. V.L. — the non-biological parent — adopted the three children in Georgia in 2007 via second-parent adoption, with E.L.’s support and written consent. When the couple split, E.L. denied V.L. visitation of the children (now 13 and 11-year-old twins) and argued that the Georgia adoption was not valid where they live in Alabama. In September 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an order refusing to recognize the Georgia adoption, declaring it “void.” The Alabama decision erased the legal relationship between V.L. and her adopted children. The U.S. Supreme Court justices are currently weighing whether to hear V.L.’s appeal of the ruling. On December 14, the Court granted a stay of the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision, while the petition is under consideration.

Hundreds of thousands of children have been adopted through second-parent adoptions in the U.S. by same-sex parents. The amicus brief, authored by pro bono counsel at Bryan Cave LLP, gives several of those children an opportunity to explain, in their own words, why the Alabama decision threatens families like theirs. They detail the importance of protecting children’s relationships with their adoptive parents and the harm the Alabama decision is likely to inflict on families in Alabama and elsewhere. Some of those interviewed have already suffered from the lack of a legal relationship with a parent.

“Until this decision, no state could question another state’s decision to grant an adoption, and a child’s adoptive parent in one state would be his or her parent everywhere — end of story,” says Emily Hecht-McGowan, Interim Co-Executive Director and Director of Public Policy for Family Equality Council. “However, with this opinion from the Alabama Supreme Court, that’s all changed. Alabama courts have been given the latitude to reinterpret another state’s adoption statutes. It’s a very dangerous precedent.”

Adds Denise Brogan-Kator, State Policy Director at Family Equality Council, “If the Supreme Court allows the Alabama ruling to stand, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of children will have their forever families put at risk. We believe the voices of children in the amicus brief will help the Court understand why it’s so necessary to reverse the Atlanta decision.”

Among the personal accounts included in the brief:

“[Elaine] was never able to take me to the doctor. She was never able to sign my college forms. All of the mundane things couples deal with every day was a struggle for us. … I am now a wife and mother, and I cannot fathom the thought of not having legal rights to my children’s well-being.” – Jamie Doepel, 33, who was raised in Oklahoma by both her biological mother and her second mother, Elaine

“I felt secure and comforted by the fact that if one of my dads were to die, or for whatever reason became unable to take care of my brother and me, our family would be legally protected and we would still have a parent in our other father.” – Rosemary Caldwell Llewellyn, 25, who was born in Peru and adopted by one of her fathers. Her other father adopted her in the U.S. through a second-parent adoption

“I cannot imagine what my childhood would have been like if she [her non-biological mother] had not been able to make choices regarding my health and well-being without approval from my other mother. It is inefficient and dangerous for a parent who holds real responsibilities for a child to not be able to legally uphold them.” – Rianna Johnson-Levy, 19, who was raised by two moms in Ann Arbor, Michigan

For interviews with Family Equality Council executives, contact Media Manager Bradley Jacobs at 917-324-8771 or via email at


Family Equality Council connects, supports, and represents the three million parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer in this country today and their six million children of all ages. We are changing attitudes and policies to ensure that all families are respected, loved, and celebrated—including families with parents who are LGBTQ. We are a community of parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren that reaches across this country. For over 30 years we have raised our children and raised our voices toward fairness for all families.

Bradley Jacobs, Media Manager, Family Equality Council