Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Maine's Supreme Court recently held that a woman's adoption of her lesbian partner is valid and thus, the adopted woman is family for inheritance purposes. Adoption of Patricia S., 2009 ME 76 (Maine July 23, 2009). The adoptee, Patricia Spado, was the partner of Olive Watson, the daughter of the late Thomas Watson, Jr., an IBM tycoon.
The history of the case is as follows:
Yesterday, in a long-running inheritance dispute, the Maine Supreme Court ruled that an adult adoption of a same-sex partner was legitimate. The dispute mostly surrounded a very large trust set up by one of the founders of IBM for the benefit of his descendants and whether the adoptee-lover of a descendant could gain a share of the trust (worth huge bucks). The Court said she was indeed part of the trust beneficiary class.
This adoption was one of two case studies I used in my latest article to show why someone might wish to adopt one’s lover or spouse. States go both ways in allowing the adoption of an adult lover or spouse. Despite its liberal leanings, for example, New York State, by common law, currently does NOT allow adult adoption of lovers or spouses, though the cases have flip-flopped over time. Most states do, however.
If anyone is interested in knowing more about this quite fascinating subject, please feel free to download my article on SSRN. The article looks at multiple angles on this story, including the distinct possibility that in about half of the states, the adoptor could be prosecuted for incest resulting in serious jail time (which has occurred on many occasions in many states in the past) and whether Lawrence now protects this behavior.
Terry Turnipseed's article is entitled Scalia's Ship of Revulsion has Sailed: Will Lawrence Protect Adults Who Adopt Lovers to Help Ensure their Inheritance from Incest Prosecution?, 32 Hamline J. Pub. L. & Pol'y 95 (2009).
See also AP, Maine Court Upholds IBM Heir's Adoption of Lesbian Lover, Fox News, July 23, 2009.