March 18, 2009

Woman Asks Florida Court to Disregard Law and Grant Her Parental Rights Over Unrelated Child

Lakeland, FL – Today Liberty Counsel argued before the Second District Court of Appeal in Florida against recognition of an out-of-state, same-sex adoption. The case involves a woman who wants to be recognized as a second parent of the biological child of her former same-sex partner. The lower court refused to recognize a same-sex adoption from another state, because Florida law does not recognize same-sex adoption. Liberty Counsel represents Kimberly Ryan in the case of Embry v. Ryan. Harry Mihet, Senior Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel, presented oral argument in the case. 

Lara Embry and her former same-sex partner, Kimberly Ryan, entered into a domestic partnership in Seattle, Washington. Ryan gave birth via artificial insemination to a daughter in February 2000. In May 2000, a Washington court allowed Embry to adopt Ryan’s baby, and Embry was listed in Washington as the second parent. In August 2002, they moved to Sarasota, Florida.

In 2004, Ryan and Embry ended their relationship. After Ryan saw that visits with Embry were not good for her daughter, she discontinued them. Ryan left the lesbian lifestyle, became a Christian, and is engaged to be married to a man. Embry filed a petition asking the court to recognize and enforce the Washington adoption decree, declare Embry a second parent, and award her visitation rights.

The trial court dismissed the petition, saying that granting Embry those rights would violate Florida’s public policy as reflected in the statute that prohibits homosexuals from adopting, the state Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and court precedent. Embry appealed, arguing in essence that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires that Florida grant her parental rights. Liberty Counsel took on Ryan’s representation for the appeal.

If Embry should prevail, the result would mean that homosexual persons in Florida could not adopt, but such out-of-state adoptions by same-sex couples or those actively engaged in homosexuality could have their adoptions recognized. Thus, other state laws and practices could be used to change Florida law. Liberty Counsel argued that even where the Full Faith and Credit Clause may require recognition of the existence of an out-of-state law, it does not require that the out-of-state law be enforced.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “Florida has the authority to establish its own policy regarding marriage and the definition of family. Florida protects its children by preferring they be placed in an optimal environment with a mom and a dad. The law of the state has been firmly established and affirmed last year by the passage of a state constitutional marriage amendment. The state of Washington cannot rewrite Florida adoption law and commandeer the state to enforce its contrary policy.” 


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