Thursday, August 30, 2007
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously today that state law does not preclude unmarried couples from jointly petitioning to adopt a child. The case involved a lesbian couple who had petitioned to adopt a 10-year-old girl and her 6-year-old brother, for whom the couple had been foster parents since 2001.
The court decided the case solely as a matter of statutory construction, reasoning that if it read the statute to prohibit joint petitions by unmarried persons, the statute would still clearly allow successive petitions by unmarried persons, leading to the same end result. "With this in mind, construing section 9-301 as prohibiting a joint petition by unmarried persons elevates form over substance to an illogical degree." In terms of reading the statute to effectuate the purposes of adoption law, the court noted that joint petitions serve the best interests of children in a variety of ways, by insuring continuity of care should one parent die, by enabling access to broader range of benefits from two parents rather than one, and "Most importantly, a joint adoption affords the adopted children the love, nurturing, and support of not one, but two parents."
Adoption of MA (Maine Supreme Court August 30, 2007)
Opinion online (last visited August 30, 2007 bgf)
In related news, see the Rocky Mountain News story on the first same-sex Colorado couple to adopt after the passage of legislation permitting unmarried couples to adopt.