In many ways, the decision was a matter of housekeeping, addressing a conflict from the inconsistent marriage and adoption laws that preceded last summer’s Obergefell decision. The case of E.L. v. V.L. (their names were kept anonymous) was about two women who had raised three children together and then separated. To ensure the legal protection of their family despite Alabama’s ban on same-sex adoption, the couple rented a house in Georgia, where they legally secured adoption rights.
After separating, E.L., who was the biological mother, sought to block V.L. from visitation from their children. Last September (months after Obergefell), the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in E.L.’s favor, declaring that because Alabama would not have recognized Georgia’s adoption ruling back in 2007 when it was granted, it was “void.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision corrected this Monday. Citing the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the Constitution, which requires states to respect the records and proceedings from other states. The Court ruled that under this provision, Alabama had an obligation to recognize the decision made by a Georgia state court. Because Georgia law gave that court “subject-matter jurisdiction to hear and decide the adoption petition at issue,” then the legitimacy of that ruling is not open to debate. “It follows that the Alabama Supreme Court erred in refusing to grant that judgment full faith and credit.”
What is perhaps most remarkable about Monday’s decision is how unremarkable it is. It was a per curiam decision, which means it was unsigned, and no justice noted a dissent. Furthermore, it did not actually rely on Obergefell at all and did not address the merits of same-sex adoption. It closed the case by treating E.L. and V.L. like any other couple, regardless of their sexual orientation.
The ruling follows Friday’s childish decision from the Alabama Supreme Court conceding to marriage equality. Expounding at length about how the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell majority were “tyrants” and promising not to start a civil war over the issue, the Court admitted that marriage equality is as much the law of the land in Alabama as in the rest of the United States.