597 F.3d 697 (5th Cir. 2010), 09-30036, Adar v. Smith

Docket Nº:09-30036.
Citation:597 F.3d 697
Opinion Judge:WIENER, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:Oren ADAR, Individually and as Parent and Next Friend of J.C. A.-S., a minor; Mickey Ray Smith, Individually and as Parent and Next Friend of J.C. A.-S., a minor, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Darlene W. SMITH, In Her Capacity as State Registrar and Director, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, State of Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals,
Attorney:Kenneth Dale Upton, Jr. (argued), Lambda Legal Defense & Educ. Fund, Inc., Dallas, TX, Spencer R. Doody, Regina O. Matthews, New Orleans, LA, for Plaintiffs-Appellees. Stuart Kyle Duncan, Asst. Atty. Gen., (argued), Baton Rouge, LA, for Defendant-Appellant. Richard Arthur Bordelon, Ralph Joseph A...
Judge Panel:Before REAVLEY, JOLLY, and WIENER, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:February 18, 2010
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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597 F.3d 697 (5th Cir. 2010)

Oren ADAR, Individually and as Parent and Next Friend of J.C. A.-S., a minor; Mickey Ray Smith, Individually and as Parent and Next Friend of J.C. A.-S., a minor, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

Darlene W. SMITH, In Her Capacity as State Registrar and Director, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, State of Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 09-30036.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

February 18, 2010

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Kenneth Dale Upton, Jr. (argued), Lambda Legal Defense & Educ. Fund, Inc., Dallas, TX, Spencer R. Doody, Regina O. Matthews, New Orleans, LA, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

Stuart Kyle Duncan, Asst. Atty. Gen., (argued), Baton Rouge, LA, for Defendant-Appellant.

Richard Arthur Bordelon, Ralph Joseph Aucoin, Sr., Denechaud & Denechaud, L.L.P., New Orleans, LA, for LA Conference of Catholic Bishops, Amicus Curiae.

Austin R. Nimocks, Alliance Defense Fund, Washington, DC, for Family Research Council, Louisiana Family Forum, Amici Curiae.

Mathew D. Staver, Anita Leigh Staver, Liberty Counsel, Maitland, FL, Stephen M. Crampton, Mary Elizabeth McAlister, Liberty Coinsel, Lynchburg, VA, for Liberty Counsel, Amicus Curiae.

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Katharine Murphy Schwartzmann, Amer. Civ. Liberties Union Foundation of LA, New Orleans, AL, for Amer. Civ. Liberties Union, Amer. Civ. Liberties Union of LA, Amici Curiae.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Before REAVLEY, JOLLY, and WIENER, Circuit Judges.

WIENER, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiffs-Appellees Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith (the " Adoptive Parents" ), individually and next friends of their adopted minor son, Plaintiff-Appellee J C A-S (" Infant J" ), all three referred to collectively as " Plaintiffs-Appellees," brought this injunction action against Defendant-Appellant Darlene W. Smith, the Louisiana State Registrar (the " Registrar" ), to force her to issue a new original birth certificate (" Certificate" ) for Infant J, who was born in Louisiana. The Adoptive Parents are unmarried adult males who obtained a joint adoption decree for Infant J in a New York state court. After obtaining that decree, the Adoptive Parents applied to the Registrar for a Certificate listing both men as parents of Infant J. The Registrar refused to issue the Certificate, citing Louisiana statutes that prohibit the in-state adoption of children by unmarried couples. On a motion for summary judgment, the district court issued a mandatory injunction, commanding the Registrar to issue the Certificate on grounds that (1) Louisiana owes full faith and credit to the New York adoption decree, and (2) LA. REV.STAT. ANN. § 40:76 authorizes the issuance of a Certificate listing both men as adoptive parents of Infant J. The Registrar timely appealed. We affirm.

I. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. Facts

Infant J is a male who was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2005. In April 2005 the Adoptive Parents, who then resided in Connecticut, obtained an agency adoption of Infant J in the Family Court of Ulster County, New York, pursuant to New York state law that authorizes joint adoptions by unmarried, same-sex couples.

After obtaining this New York adoption decree, the Adoptive Parents arranged for a Report of Adoption to be forwarded from the New York Department of Health to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Public Health, Vital Records and Statistics. The Adoptive Parents sought to have a Certificate issued and recorded for Infant J, reflecting his new name and his relationship to the Adoptive Parents. Before deciding whether to comply with that request, the Department of Health and Hospitals requested an opinion from the State's Attorney General whether Louisiana was required to issue the requested Certificate. The Attorney General issued an opinion that Louisiana does not owe full faith and credit to the instant New York adoption judgment because it is repugnant to Louisiana's public policy of not allowing joint adoptions by unmarried persons.

Approximately one week after receiving this opinion, the Registrar wrote to the Adoptive Parents informing them of her decision to decline to issue the Certificate. The Registrar's letter stated that because (1) Louisiana only authorizes in-state adoptions by single adults or married couples; (2) LA.REV.STAT. ANN. § 40:76 vests the Registrar with full discretion in issuing amended birth certificates for out-of-state adoptions of Louisiana-born children; and (3) LA.REV.STAT. ANN. § 40:34(D) only authorizes the Registrar to issue amended Certificates in accordance with Louisiana

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law, the State's Office of Vital Records and Statistics was " not able to accept the New York adoption judgment to create a new birth certificate." As additional support for not issuing the Certificate, the Registrar cited the State Attorney General's opinion that Louisiana does not owe full faith and credit to the instant New York judgment.

B. Proceedings

In October 2007, the Plaintiffs-Appellees filed suit in the Eastern District of Louisiana against the Registrar in her official capacity, seeking (1) a declaration that the Registrar's refusal to issue the Certificate violates both the Full Faith and Credit Clause (the " Clause" ) and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and (2) a mandatory injunction requiring the Registrar to issue a Certificate that identifies both Adoptive Parents as Infant J's parents.

The Registrar filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction which the district court denied. After the Registrar filed an answer to the amended complaint, the Adoptive Parents filed a motion for summary judgment. In it they asserted that (1) by its plain language, LA.REV.STAT. ANN. § 40:76 expressly requires the issuance of a Certificate for Infant J reflecting that both Adoptive Parents are his parents, (2) Louisiana owes full faith and credit to the New York state adoption decree, and (3) failure to issue a Certificate for Infant J denies the Plaintiffs-Appellees equal protection under the United States Constitution.

In granting summary judgment to the Plaintiffs-Appellees, the district court held that Louisiana owes full faith and credit to the New York adoption decree and that there is no public policy exception to the Clause. The court also went on to state that a forum state's enforcement of such a decree from an adjudicating state is subject to the " evenhanded" enforcement of the laws of the forum state. The district court then examined the Louisiana statute that governs the recording of out-of-state adoptions of Louisiana-born children and held that the plain language of the statute mandates that, on receipt of a duly certified copy of the New York adoption decree, the Registrar had to issue a Certificate for Infant J that contains the names of the Adoptive Parents as his parents. As the trial court granted summary judgment on grounds of Full Faith and Credit and Louisiana law, it did not reach the Plaintiffs-Appellees' equal protection claim.

Before filing her timely notice of appeal, the Registrar filed a motion in the district court seeking either a new trial or dismissal. In that motion, the Registrar asserted for the first time that the Adoptive Parents lacked standing and, in the alternative, that the district court should abstain from interpreting LA.REV.STAT. ANN. § 40:76 and instead certify the question to the Louisiana Supreme Court. After briefing and a hearing, the district court denied the Registrar's motion for a new trial or dismissal, as well as her motion for a temporary stay. Subsequently, the Registrar filed a motion in this court seeking a stay pending this appeal, which we granted.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review questions of jurisdiction, including standing, de novo. 1 If the district court expressly or implicitly resolves any factual disputes in making its jurisdictional ruling, we review such findings

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for clear error.2 We review a grant of summary judgment de novo under the same standards applied by the district court.3 Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 4 We review determinations of fact in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and we review questions of law de novo. 5 We also review the district court's determinations of state law de novo, giving no deference to such rulings.6

III. ANALYSIS

This case poses an issue of first impression in this circuit; only one other circuit has addressed a similar one.7 The instant dispute implicates the questions (1) whether Louisiana owes full faith and credit to the subject New York adoption decree and (2) whether full faith and credit requires Louisiana, under the plain language of its own statute and under the constitutional requirement of " evenhanded" enforcement of that judgment, to issue a Certificate for Infant J that lists both Adoptive Parents as his parents.

The Registrar is now challenging the standing of the Plaintiffs-Appellees 8 to bring this action. As standing is jurisdictional, we address that issue before addressing full faith and credit and state law.

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A. Standing

The Registrar contends that the Plaintiffs-Appellees have not satisfied Article III's standing requirements; specifically, that the harms they allege are not sufficient injuries-in-fact. The harms alleged are (1) difficulties encountered in enrolling Infant J in Smith's health insurance plan; (2) problems encountered with airline personnel who suspected that the Adoptive Parents were kidnappers of Infant J; and (3) denial of the " emotional satisfaction" of " seeing both of their names on the birth certificate." In supplemental briefing, the Registrar also...

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