Students Help Earn California Supreme Court Victory

Contact: Erin Campbell, Communications Dept., 510-643-8010,

On Monday, August 4, the California Supreme Court ruled in Sharon S. v. the Superior Court of San Diego County. The decision affirms the validity of “second-parent adoptions,” providing key legal protections to children raised by same-sex couples. These adoptions permit a birth or adoptive parent to retain parental rights while allowing his or her partner to become the child’s second parent. Lecturer-in-Residence Joan Heifetz Hollinger, a leading expert on adoption law and policy, and her students submitted an amicus curiae brief arguing that California ‘s adoption laws authorize second-parent adoptions.

Because same-sex couples are not currently permitted to marry, a second-parent adoption is often the only way couples may establish a secure legal relationship with their children. The brief argued that the state Supreme Court should affirm the lower courts ability to evaluate second-parent adoptions on a case-by-case basis, using the same standards as in other independent adoptions. The brief concludes that second-parent adoptions benefit children by giving legal recognition to actual parent-child relationships and protecting children’s rights to material benefits, such as inheritance, pensions, Social Security, health insurance and child support.

In her opinion for a majority of the Court, Justice Kathryn Werdegar ’62 supported key points made in the brief. The decision enables thousands of children and their families to have their relationships legally recognized.