The Nebraska Supreme Court has overturned a lower court judge’s decision to deny a lesbian couple the right to adopt a three-year-old child that they have been raising together. The judge had said that same-sex couples adopting kids in the state is “imagination station” because, he argued, a wife has to have a husband.
“I think there will always be challenges,” said ACLU of Nebraska attorney Sara Rips, who represented the mothers. “I think we have a lot of fight left to go.”
The case involves two women who got married in California in 2008. The sister of one of the women had a child in 2017 and relinquished her rights to the child. The child’s biological father did not seek custody.
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The kid is now three and the mothers want to adopt them legally, as a couple. But Dixon County Judge Douglas Luebe – who called himself “old-fashioned” during a hearing – refused to allow them to adopt.
Nebraska doesn’t ban same-sex couples from adopting, and state law says that any adult or adults are allowed to adopt a child in the state. But the law also says that if someone who wants to adopt a child has a husband or wife, then that husband or wife has to adopt the child as well.
That’s where Judge Luebe’s tortured logic enters the picture. He said that his law dictionary defines “wife” as “a woman who has a lawful living husband.”
In his order denying the adoption, Luebe said that the “plain ordinary language” of the law therefore bans “wife and wife” from adopting. He said any court that disagrees is an “imagination station.”
The women appealed and the state supreme court unanimously ruled in their favor, saying that a wife is “a married woman.”
Even with Luebe’s definition, the supreme court said that his logic didn’t make any sense. If the women aren’t wives, then the caveat doesn’t apply.
Rips, who represented the women, said that the victory is “huge” because it showed once again that same-sex couples are allowed to adopt in the state.