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On June 26, 2015, a decision from the United States Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion, “Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.”

The laws surrounding adoption for same sex couples, however, still aren’t so cut and dry. In Washington State, Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu has presided over more than 1,000 adoption ceremonies for gay, lesbian, and straight couples during the past 15 years.

“It’s almost a form of ministry. And just as you would come to the church to have a baptism, or confirmation, or any of the sacraments, you are taking a moment and marking it as significant in your life and in your tradition. I have to admit it has felt like a sense of ministry,” said Justice Yu about performing these adoption ceremonies.

Meanwhile, across the country, Jessie and Cooper Odell fought for years in the Florida state courts for the right to adopt their son, George. “To be perfectly honest, I didn’t plan on having any children. And something changed and I just felt the need to be a daddy. At that point, I couldn’t adopt because it was illegal in the state of Florida to adopt. So we like everybody else continued struggling, fighting back and forth with all the people in the state until it finally got to a point where it did happen. It was 2011,” said Jessie.

Justice Yu says that she will stop performing adoption ceremonies at the end of the summer and let other Washington State judges take over. Jessie and Cooper Odell now live in Alabama and hope to find a way to adopt another child soon.


Production Notes:

Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle produce the story. Thanks to Joshua McNichols and KUOW in Seattle for sharing the interview with Associate Justice Mary Yu.  Life of the Law’s Managing Editor Ashley Cleek interviewed Jessie Odell.

Life of the Law © 2018