DENVER — The federal appeals court in Denver on Friday struck down Oklahoma's law that bans state recognition of out-of-state adoptions by same-sex parents.
The ruling is a victory for gay and lesbian couples who adopt children. It is a defeat for Oklahoma legislators who passed the law in 2004 and for the Oklahoma Department of Health, which sought to uphold the law.
"We hold that final adoption orders by a state court of competent jurisdiction are judgments that must be given full faith and credit under the Constitution by every other state in the nation,” the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in a 35-page decision.
"Because the Oklahoma statute at issue categorically rejects a class of out-of-state adoption decrees, it violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the U.S. Constitution, the judges wrote.
The Constitution states that "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.”
Accordingly, they affirmed a ruling last year by U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron in Oklahoma City that declared the law unconstitutional.
The Health Department, which issues birth certificates, had appealed Cauthron's ruling.
Three sets of same-sex parents had sued to strike down the law, arguing that it unconstitutionally singled out a specific group for discrimination.
A top lawyer for the department, Thomas Cross, said department officials have not seen Friday's decision and therefore could not yet comment on it.
Cross, speaking from Oklahoma City, said officials may be able to comment Tuesday after department attorneys on Monday review the decision and brief top managers of the department.
An attorney for the same-sex parents, Kenneth Upton, speaking from his office in Dallas, said, "We're just real happy for these parents and their kids.”
Upton, of the gay-rights group, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said no other state has a similar law.