May 2021 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

Nebraska’s Supreme Court ruled on March 26 that a lesbian couple has the right to adopt a child, overturning a lower-court ruling that relied in part on the definition of the word “wife” that a judge pulled from a legal dictionary.

The two women, identified in court papers as Kelly and Maria, are legally married. They applied to adopt the 3-year-old girl, Yasmin, they have raised since birth. In the application, both use the word “wife” to refer to themselves. Dixon County Judge Douglas Luebe denied their petition, asserting that both women could not be wives because a legal dictionary he consulted defined “wife” as “a woman who has a lawful living husband,” reported the Lincoln Journal Star.

The Nebraska Supreme Court failed to find Luebe’s reasoning to be persuasive. Justice William B. Cassel wrote that while state law requires that both spouses agree to an adoption, they are not required to be of the opposite sex.

“A wife is commonly understood to be ‘[a] married woman,” observed the court. “Based on the understanding of that word in current usage, Kelly is a ‘person having a … wife.’ So, too, is Maria.” (In re adoption of Yasmin S.)