Cari Searcy and Kimberly McKeand are returning to court in Alabama. After successfully petitioning the Court to require the state to recognize their 2008 same-sex marriage from California, they were then denied a joint adoption based on the same ban on same-sex marriage.
The obstacle is a familiar face in Alabama’s legal chaos, Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis. Davis previously denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples like James Strawser and John Humphrey, who also successfully challenged the state’s ban, seeking to marry in-state. Federal Judge Callie Granade issued a follow-up ruling clarifying that Davis was bound by her order to not enforce the ban and to proceed in issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
When it came to Searcy and McKeand’s adoption petition, Davis decided to add his own spin to delay their due justice. Alabama state law dictates that “any person may adopt his or her spouse’s child,” but when Davis issued his order for the adoption, he included a unique qualification. “It is further ORDERED by the Court that this Decree is qualified in nature, and the Court will not issue a final adoption order until a final ruling is issued in the United States Supreme Court on the Marriage Act cases before it,” his order read. As the couple argues in their new complaint, “Don Davis has no legitimate reason for continuing to abide by the fiction that the Alabama Sanctity Laws have any effect in Alabama.
Their son, Khaya (“K.S.” in the legal complaint), was born to McKeand in 2005, has Searcy’s last name, and the couple has been raising the child together his entire life. They used a sperm donor named Mike who lives in Florida, and Mike is neither listed as Khaya’s father on the birth certificate nor did he register as the father with Alabama’s putative father registry system. Not only does he not contest Searcy’s adoption, but he has consented to it, waiving all parental rights. Searcy and McKeand jointly parent Khaya and likewise, “K.S. views both as parents, and K.S. has only know Searcy and McKeand as his parents since birth.”
Given that Granade will likely field this complaint as she has the others, there is little reason to doubt that she will rule in the couple’s favor. In the meantime, however, Searcy remains a “legal stranger” to the son she has raised for nine years.