MOBILE, Ala. — The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals has denied a lesbian the right to adopt her partner’s 6-year-old son, because the the state does not permit or recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.
The ruling upholds a lower court decision by Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis, who denied Cari Searcy’s adoption petition even though she has been with her partner, Kim McKeand, for 14 years – and legally married her in California in 2008.
This is the second time that Searcy has tried to legally adopt the couple’s son, Khaya.
In 2006, Searcy filed the adoption paperwork, only to be turned down. At that time, the court ruled that the adoption was not permissible since the two were not married.
In 2008, the couple traveled to California prior to the passage of Proposition 8 and were legally married there. Upon their return to Mobile, with a valid California marriage license, Searcy again petitioned to adopt the child.
“We’re not asking for the state to legally marry us,” said Searcy. “I’m just asking for the right to legally adopt our son so I can make medical decisions for him, educational decisions, the normal parental things.”
Following last week’s decision by appeals court, Searcy said she was “disappointed,” but was expecting the outcome. “You always hope for the best.”
The Mobile Press-Register reported that the couple has discussed appealing the ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court or taking the case to federal court, but that no decision has been made.
Searcy’s lawyer, Vivian Beckerle, said the cost of an appeal is one of the factors her client will have to consider.
“It does begin to get expensive to carry it forward,” she said. “I’d like to see them do it, because it is something the state needs to confront head-on.”
Adoption is not merely a theoretical exercise — Khaya had open-heart surgery when he was 3 months old, and hospital officials would not allow Searcy to sign permission forms for medical procedures.
Alabama’s only openly gay legislator, state Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) said she was also disappointed by the ruling.
“If we truly care about the welfare of children, it’s most important that they be in a loving family,” said Todd. “It restricts the ability to raise the child if only one parent can have custody.”