E Pluribus Unum? The Full Faith and Credit Clause and Meaningful Recognition of Out-of-State Adoptions
Posted: 8 Mar 2012 Last revised: 1 Jun 2012
Date Written: March 7, 2012
Parents and children whose legal relationships derive from state adoption judgments face uncertainty when they travel across state lines. State officials have denied out-of-state adoptive parents revised birth certificates, which recognize their status as legal parents in their child’s birth state, because the parents would be statutorily unable to adopt in that state.
Various U.S. Courts of Appeals have disagreed as to whether, and to what extent, the Full Faith and Credit Clause in Article IV of the Constitution requires that state executive officials recognize out-of-state rights. Circuits also differ as to whether the Full Faith and Credit Clause confers an individual right for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for parents alleging a violation of the Clause. The divergent opinions result from conflicting interpretations of the force and scope of the Full Faith and Credit Clause, distinctions between recognition and enforcement of out-of-state rights, and the varying views of the Clause’s balance of state policy interests and federal unity imperatives.
This Note argues that the language, history, and purpose of the Full Faith and Credit Clause demonstrate that the Clause requires states — including both judicial and executive officers — to give meaningful recognition to judicially established rights. It concludes that the denial of revised birth certificates to out-of-state adoptive couples violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause’s mandate to meaningfully recognize and equally enforce out-of-state judgments.
Keywords: Constitutional law, Family law, Full Faith and Credit Clause
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