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Supreme Court's Action on Same Sex Adoption: Are They Wishing for Too Much?

By John Gonzalez - Staff Writer
On November 21, 2011

There is some controversy over the Supreme Court refusing to review the case of a same sex couple Oren Adar and Mickey Ray Smith. The case arose when a Louisiana official refused to give the same sex couple an updated birth certificate, even though the child was adopted in New York where the adoption is legal. The argument for the couple was that due to the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution, Louisiana officials would have to accept their adoption claim, even though their state law considers it unlawful.

This is a landmark case and could set bold new precedent for legalizing same sex marriages, because it allows same sex adoption. However, the problem is that the Supreme Court isn't going to see it.  The Supreme Court sometimes behaves like the United Nations, in that they are an organization capable of wielding great authority and power. However, if they act too aggressively they might find themselves unable to enforce their decisions. Regardless of personal opinion, the fact remains that same sex marriage is a mixed issue, with some who think in some degrees it is an acceptable civil union but others outright denying it. The question to be asked is if the Supreme Court can define something like same sex marriage, without infringing on a state's rights? Applied to same sex adoption, another question arises about whether the Supreme Court should be allowed to define something as polarizing as this? The answer, in a nutshell, is no.

The Supreme Court can't make giant changes, so they can't make sweeping cultural claims either. Even if they could, they have no real grounds to do so. Certain things like polygamy will not get legitimacy in other states. The same applies to same sex marriage and/or adoption; States should have a degree of leeway in how they are able to define them. While it might seem like rewriting a birth certificate is a small issue, the larger implication is legitimizing the idea of same sex marriage. Adoption is not similar to segregation where government action was required, states should have a degree of responsibility to say whether or not they support it.

While state power is important, the main issue would be culture and practice, something that the Supreme Court can't change. Just as in Brown V. Board of Education, which not only overturned a Supreme Court decision but also didn't stop segregation in schools, it still exists. The Supreme Court is not some sort of a super committee. The issue of adoption is so closely related to same sex marriage and cultural perceptions that there isn't a simple solution like government intervention.

If the Supreme Court wouldn't deal with same sex marriage, it certainly will not comment on adoption by said group. To be honest, things like women's suffrage and civil rights movements had the Supreme Court decide on them when the party was over. The Supreme Court more often than not tends to take cases only when they can enforce it. Brown v. Board wouldn't exactly fly in the 1920's.

The issue isn't the legitimacy of same sex adoption but whether or not the national government can cause broad societal change like this through precedent and legislation. The answer is that they really cannot because unlike the Civil Rights movement where there was tangible abuse, here it is more like a way of life. This is an issue that is and should be based more so around a state's internal culture and acceptance level than on an act of national legislation. A landmark case that can potentially allow legalization of same sex marriage through the endorsement of same sex adoption needs to be in the hands of state lawmakers, not the Supreme Court.


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