Thursday, August 30, 2007

Maine High Court OK's Same-Sex Couple Adoptions

Maine High Court OKs Same-Sex Couple Adoptions
by Newscenter Staff

Posted: August 30, 2007 - 3:00 pm ET

(Portland, Maine) Maine’s highest court, the Law Court, Thursday issued a ruling allowing a lesbian couple to jointly adopt two siblings currently in foster care.

The unanimous ruling opens the door in Maine for other co-parent adoptions by same-sex couples.

The case began in 2001 when children were removed from their home after their biological parents were no longer able to care for them.

The children were placed with Ann Courtney, an attorney, and Marilyn Kirby, a counselor.

The children, identified in court documents only as M who is now 10 and R who is six, had multiple emotional, learning, and developmental problems.

The couple applied to adopt M and R in 2002, and filed adoption petitions in Cumberland County Probate Court in May 2006.

The judge denied their petition, interpreting current Maine adoption law to allow only one unmarried person or a married couple to adopt.

While either of the women could have adopted the children the couple decided they wanted the children to be adopted jointly and appealed.

The appeal reached the Law Court last September and was officially considered in February 2007.

The court issued its ruling on Thursday.

“A joint adoption assures that in the event of either adoptive parent’s death, the children’s continued relationship with the surviving parent is fixed and certain,” the Court said in its written decision.

“A joint adoption also enables the children to be eligible for a variety of public and private benefits…Most importantly, a joint adoption affords the adopted children the love, nurturing, and support of not one, but two parents."

Their petition was supported by professional organizations including the American Psychological Association, the Child Welfare League of America, and the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Attorney General Steven Rowe also filed a friend of the court brief, arguing that prohibiting this adoption would be counter to the letter and purposes of Maine’s Adoption Act, which seeks to protect the best interest of each adoptive child.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Courtney. “We love these kids, and their well-being means everything to us. Our daughter and son can now know that we are a family, and we’ll always be a family.”

Attorney Mary Bonauto of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, who represented the couple, said in a statement: “This decision is in the best interest of the children, who have flourished under Ann and Marilyn’s care. The court wisely listened to the experts who knew this family well – everyone from the state’s adoption workers to the children’s guardian to the social worker who completed the home study.”

Maine currently has 2,286 children in foster care, according to the Central Office Adoption Manager at the Department of Health and Human Services. At least 530 of those children have a goal of adoption.

Co-adoptions are are expressly permitted in a dozen other states, including the New England states of Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

© 2007

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