WHEN the Supreme Court ruled last summer that gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to wed, Justice Anthony Kennedy emphasised the welfare of children as a central reason for expanding marriage laws. A right to marry “safeguards children and families”, he wrote. It “affords the permanency and stability important to children’s best interests”. No more, Justice Kennedy declared, will the offspring of gay and lesbian couples be “relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life”.
All well and good if the couple is married. But many gay couples are not hitched, and in some states, the partner lacking a biological connection to the child may have a hard time winning joint custody through “second-parent adoption”. This is the heart of a Scrabble-hand of a case, V.L. v E.L., that the Supreme Court stepped into on December 14th.