Welcome to the Roundtable, a forum for incisive commentary and analysis
on cases and developments in law and the legal system.
on cases and developments in law and the legal system.
By Luis Bravo
Luis Bravo is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania studying sociology.
Though it has been almost a year since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage with its momentous Obergefell v. Hodges decision, LGBTQ+ rights still remain a divisive issue in America.  Ambiguities within the law are consistently exploited to contest the rights of same-sex partners, resulting in several court battles throughout the states. Granting marriage equality has resulted in a batch of legal conundrums that our present legal system is not able to swiftly and adequately address. Divorce and custody rights for same-sex parents are a few of the many issues that are not clearly defined in our legal system, and is thus a point of legal conflict.  A recent Supreme Court decision, however, has begun to change that.
Two women, V.L. and E.L., were in a relationship from 1995 until their subsequent divorce in 2011. During their relationship, E.L. gave birth to children through donor insemination that both individuals raised together. Eventually, both parents moved to Georgia so V.L could legally adopt the children. E.L never relinquished her parental rights, but she did explicitly consent to V. L’s adoption of her children. Eventually, the entire family moved back to Alabama, and in 2011 V.L and E.L got divorced. Soon after, V.L filed a motion requesting visitation rights for her adoptive children. The Family Court in Jefferson County granted her request. However, E.L appealed the decision to the Alabama Court of Appeals, claiming that the Alabama court should not recognize the Georgia adoption decision, because the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction in the first place. In other words, E.L argued that the Georgia court never possessed the power to grant adoption privilege to her partner; the Alabama Court of Appeals agreed and revoked V.L’s visitation rights. 
Without much haste, however, the Supreme Court reversed Alabama’s ruling in a unanimous, per curiam decision.  In plain, cut and dry, language the Supreme Court ruled that Alabama had disregarded a “time-honored rule,” and “erred in refusing to grant the judgment full faith and credit.”  While this decision is mostly concerned with defining the rules governing the relationships between states, it is also a significant civil rights victory for LGBTQ+ individuals. By requiring all states to recognize the adoption rights of same-sex parents on the basis of the full faith and credit clause, this court decision has set a powerful precedent for families across the country. More than 16,000 same-sex couples raising adopted children can rest assured that their adoption rights will be secure in any state.  Similarly, adopted children will not be subjected to the uncertainty of losing a parent because a different state deems an adoption null. Additionally, it further clarifies ambiguous sections of the law that relate to LGBTQ+ rights and family law, expanding legal protections for same-sex couples. Moreover, while not a controversial or radical decision, it does strengthen the outreach of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution.
The V.L. v. E.L. case is a testament to the fact that the gay rights movement is far from over. While marriage equality was a crucial triumph for the LGBTQ+ community, there are still many legal battles that must be resolved. For example, even though “gay cake” laws (laws aimed at discriminating against same-sex couples by allowing bakers and other service providers to refuse service on the basis of protecting religious conscience) have been deemed unconstitutional in the lower appellate courts, but the United States Supreme Court has yet to address the issue directly.  Hopefully, however, this decision will foreshadow future decisions in same-sex couple disputes.
 Geggel, Laura. "Same-Sex Marriage: 6 Effects of Supreme Court's Decision." LiveScience. April 28, 2015. Accessed March 17, 2016. http://www.livescience.com/50655-supreme-court-same-sex-marriage.html
 Giamborne, Andrew. "Equality in Marriage May Not Bring Equality in Adoption." The Atlantic. May 26, 2015. Accessed March 17, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/05/equality-in-marriage-may-not-bring-equality-in-adoption/393806/.
 NCLR. "Case: E.L. v. V.L." National Center for Lesbian Rights. March 7, 2016. Accessed March 17, 2016. http://www.nclrights.org/cases-and-policy/cases-and-advocacy/case-e-l-v-v-l/
 Epps, Garrett. "The U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Adopt an Alabama Ruling." The Atlantic. March 8, 2016. Accessed March 17, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/the-us-supreme-court-refuses-to-adopt-an-alabama-ruling/472722/
 V.L.v.E.L.,ET AL., No. 15–648 (March 7, 2016).
 ISD Editorial Board. "Editorial: Supreme Court Ruling on Adoption: A Step Forward for Civil Rights." Iowa State Daily. March 9, 2016. Accessed March 17, 2016. http://www.iowastatedaily.com/opinion/article_1db8a052-e583-11e5-8e42-57844d899d19.html
 The Economist. "Must Religious Bakers Bake Cakes for Gay Weddings?" The Economist. 2015. Accessed March 17, 2016. http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2015/07/gay-rights-and-religious-freedom
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons User Tony Webster
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