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Man adopted in Ky. by mother’s spouse following marriage ruling

Man adopted in Ky. by mother’s spouse following marriage ruling

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A Kentucky judge has finalized the adoption of a 28-year-old man by a woman who was legally married to his mother in Massachusetts, the first step-parent adoption by a member of a same-sex couple in Fayette County and possibly the state following a federal court ruling.

Joan Callahan and Jennifer Leigh Crossen
Joan Callahan and Jennifer Leigh Crossen

Fayette Circuit Court Judge Kathy Stein finalized the adoption of David Crossen by Joan Callahan on Tuesday. Callahan and the man’s mother, Jennifer Leigh Crossen, were married in Massachusetts in October after more than 25 years together, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.

A 2008 state Court of Appeals case had restricted step-parent adoptions in Kentucky to married heterosexual couples. But Stein cited a Feb. 12 decision in which a federal judge issued a preliminary ruling that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.

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It was the first such adoption in Fayette County and possibly in the state in the wake of U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn II’s ruling, which didn’t become final until Thursday. On Friday, Heyburn issued a stay in the case, delaying its effective date until March 20.

If Heyburn’s decision is not appealed by Attorney General Jack Conway and Gov. Steve Beshear, lawyers said other same-sex couples who were legally married elsewhere will move forward with adoptions quickly in late March.

“I expect the adoption practice to pick up significantly,” said Ross Ewing, Callahan’s attorney.

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In Callahan’s case, her adoption will stand even if Heyburn’s decision is overturned by an appellate court, the newspaper reported. Only Callahan and Crossen have legal standing to appeal the adoption, and they won’t, Ewing said.

Callahan is a professor emerita of the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Women and Gender Studies. She and David Crossen said the adoption is more than just symbolic.

“It means a lot to me and to her. It recognizes her for her quarter century of being my parent,” David Crossen said. “But it’s not as though the legal recognition provides additional validation to us or changes the way I feel about Joan or how she feels about me.”

Until the stay is lifted and the state issues clear directions, Fayette Circuit Court Clerk Don Blevins’ office is not issuing any name changes or other services that same-sex couples married in another state might seek.

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