Supreme Court reverses same-sex parent adoption

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On March 7, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed an Alabama Supreme Court decision refusing to recognize a lesbian mother’s prior adoption of her three children in Georgia. The summary reversal restores V.L. full rights as an adoptive parent.

V.L and E.L. were in a long-term same-sex relationship in which they planned for and raised three children together, using donor insemination. To ensure that both had secure parental rights, V.L., the non-biological mother, adopted the couples’ three children in Georgia in 2007, with E.L.’s support and written consent. When the two later broke up, E.L. kept V.L. from seeing the children, fighting her request for visitation, and arguing that the Georgia adoption was invalid in Alabama, where they live.

In September 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an order refusing to recognize V.L.’s Georgia adoption and declaring that it is “void.” Even though V.L. raised the children from birth and both women participated in the adoption hearing and consented to the adoption, the Court broke with more than a century of precedent requiring states to honor court judgments from other states. Disregarding this clear precedent, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Alabama can treat the adoption as void based on the Alabama Supreme Court’s view that the Georgia court should not have granted the adoption in 2007.

In November 2015, V.L. asked the U.S. Supreme Court to Review her case, noting that the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision is unprecedented. Before this ruling, no state supreme court had refused to recognize a same-sex parent’s adoption from another state — or any out-of-state adoption — based on a disagreement with how the court issuing the adoption interpreted its own adoption laws. Under the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, states are required to respect court judgments, including adoption orders, issued by courts in other states. V.L.’s request said “this Court’s review of the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision is urgently needed” because “the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision flouts a century of precedent on the Full Faith and Credit Clause and will have a devastating impact on Alabama adoptive families.”

In December 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the Alabama court’s decision, allowing V.L. to have visitation with her children while the Court considered her case.

Madison named HRC COO and CS

North Carolina native Joni Madison was appointed as the new Human Rights Campaign’s chief operating officer and chief of staff.
North Carolina native Joni Madison was appointed as the new Human Rights Campaign’s chief operating officer and chief of staff.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) named Joni Madison as the organization’s new Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff on March 9.

She will report directly to HRC President Chad Griffin and will oversee all HRC operations including board relations, finance, human resources, diversity and inclusion, general counsel, facilities and administration. Madison will also work with Griffin and HRC’s senior team to implement the organization’s strategic priorities and goals.

“Joni has a 15-year demonstrated track record of leadership, both within and outside of the LGBT movement,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Joni is already a loved member of the HRC family, and I am thrilled to get to work more closely with her in the fight for full equality.”

Madison comes to HRC from a tenure at McKinney, where she served as the chief operating officer, overseeing the day-to-day operations of a national advertising agency that worked with clients including Nationwide Insurance, CarMax, ESPN, Coca-Cola and General Mills — all top-earners on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices for LGBT employees. Through this position, she oversaw over 200 employees and cultivated an office environment that was named one of Advertising Age’s “Best Places to Work” in 2010.

As a long-term supporter and volunteer for HRC, Madison served on the board of directors from 2007 until 2014, and served as a co-chair on the board from 2012-2014. She also served on the HRC Board of Governors from 2001 until 2006, coordinating fundraising efforts and managing volunteers throughout the country. Madison has helped develop strategic plans for HRC and has been active in her community as a lead organizer for HRC’s North Carolina Gala. She has also led several diversity initiatives and organizing efforts for HRC, including a women’s leadership initiative and the Gospel & Unity Celebration, a program which brought together diverse people of faith to support the LGBT community.


Elton John AIDS Foundation announces grant-making partnership

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) announced a second year of grant awards made in partnership with The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF).

With the support of $100,000 in funding from The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, EJAF has awarded $330,000 in grants to five organizations addressing the AIDS epidemic in the southern U.S. EJAF expressed its enthusiasm about the continued impact this partnership will have in advancing the fight against HIV/AIDS in the southern region where it is needed most.

“Poor access to HIV testing and good healthcare, as well as pervasive inequality for people most vulnerable to the disease, continue to make the U.S. South an epicenter of today’s AIDS crisis,” said EJAF Chairman David Furnish. “This is particularly true for LGBTQ individuals and Black Americans living in the Southern states. A recent CDC report has projected that, if HIV infection rates remain unchanged, half of all Black gay men will test positive for HIV at some point in their lifetime, as well as one in four Latino gay men, and one in eleven white gay men. By making these grants, both Foundations commit to relentless advocacy and investment until we see meaningful and lasting change in the course of this epidemic.” The projects being supported include: a Birmingham, Ala., center providing a safe, supportive, and affirming space for LGBTQ youth; a Georgia-based advocacy center focused on the impact of HIV/AIDS on young black gay men; a Jacksonville, Fla., organization providing young LGBT people with access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); a Memphis, Tenn., program supporting the needs of black gay families; and an Atlanta-based community organization engaging transgender people of color, the larger LGBT community, and supportive allies to advocate for the end of policies that criminalize HIV/AIDS.

“Far too many people are denied equal rights and equal access to health care in this country, especially in the Southern U.S. This partnership helps to address the serious inequities that exist in the provision of education, diagnosis, and treatment for the people most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS,” said ETAF Managing Director Joel Goldman. “At The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, we are thrilled to join the Elton John AIDS Foundation to help right this imbalance and address the needs of the hardest-hit areas and populations in the U.S. South.”

“In the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic began, Elizabeth Taylor was the brightest star in Hollywood, one of the greatest celebrities in the world,” said EJAF Founder Elton John. “But she was also willing to get her hands dirty. She stood up for gay people when few others would, and she got right into the nitty-gritty of AIDS policy and fought for the cause, without a moment’s hesitation or thought for her own reputation. Elizabeth was my dear friend, and she remains one of my heroes. I am extremely proud of EJAF’s partnership with The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation to help carry her great legacy forward.”


Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.