The Indiana attorney general’s office is asking the Indiana Supreme Court to hear the case of Infant Girl W. v. Morgan County Office of Family and Children which presents the issue of whether two people who are not married may jointly petition for adoption. Two trial judges have disagreed on the issue and the appellate court judges split 2-1 in their ruling last month. The attorney general’s office is asking the High Court to vacate the lower court’s decision permitting a joint adoption by an unmarried couple.
“The issue presented in this case concerns whether or not Indiana law has changed to now permit unmarried partners to adopt through a joint petition,” Carter stated. “There has been conflict among trial and appellate judges about whether two people can jointly adopt a child when they are not married. Given such a division thus far among five judges at two different levels of our courts; and given the fact that the state Supreme Court has not yet had the opportunity to interpret the most recent relevant enactment of the legislature, I find it proper to invite the High Court to be heard in this matter.”
The legislature amended the statute addressing adoptions by unmarried couples in 2005. Carter noted that the Supreme Court may resolve the confusion between the decisions and opinions offered by the lower court judges. If the Supreme Court chooses to hear the case, it will likely extend the resolution of this particular case beyond the next legislative session. “Such action by the court, though, could provide
sound guidance for any later legislative discussion regarding this subject matter,” Carter added.
Barbara Baird, who handled the case for the gay couple on appeal, told the AP she feels confident the state's Supreme Court will affirm the lower court ruling. "I think the Court of Appeals ruling will be upheld and should be upheld because it was rightly decided and did clarify the law, and no further clarification is needed by the Supreme Court."
WISH-TV reported, quoting from Carter's press release, "If the Supreme Court chooses to hear the case, it will likely extend the resolution of this particular case beyond the next legislative session." In the past, the Indiana Senate has refused to consider legislation which would impact the outcome of a decision pending in the courts. Whether that rule is enforced under the Senate's new president pro tem remains to be seen. Sen. Jeff Drozda (R-Westfield) has already announced he will propose a ban on gay adoptions in the next legislative session.