The Counselor=s Corner
Can an Arizona adoption web site that refuses to list gay couples be subject to California=s Civil Rights laws? According to United States District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton, the answer is yes. The outcome of this ruling will be the permission to go forward with a case pending against adoption.com. This case stems from a filing by a San Jose same-sex couple against adoption.com. Michael and Richard Butler have been together in excess of 8 years. They are registered domestic partners. They attempted to list themselves on adoption.com, however, they were told by the company=s director that gay and lesbian couples are not allowed to put themselves on the web site as prospective adoptive parents. The court in its ruling held that this discrimination violates the UNRUH Civil Rights Act which is in place to prevent this type of thing from happening. The key here is that the UNRUH Civil Rights Act is California law, but is not in effect in Arizona. The web site attorneys wanted the case heard in Arizona and not in California. The web site is represented by the Alliance Defense Fund which is a group that wishes to spread the Christian gospel through litigation.
We now have what is referred to as a jurisdictional issue. Does the State of California have jurisdiction to rule on this lawsuit? Judge Hamilton said yes, indicating that adoption.com does substantial business in California as it advertises in the state, attempts to solicit adoption centers in the state, and enters into contracts with California businesses.
Needless to say the Butlers are happy about this ruling allowing their case to proceed. They indicate that they do not view this case as one that will either expand or contract gay rights, but merely asks companies doing business in California to comply with the law of the State of California. The Alliance Defense Fund counsel is not ready to quit however, and he is preparing an appeal to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It appears as if this matter is headed to the Ninth Circuit and then very possibly the United States Supreme Court. The Alliance Defense Fund claims that previous cases have ruled that states cannot regulate the Internet business activities of out of state companies.
So what do you think? If the Internet was not involved, the Butlers would be on extremely on solid ground for that which has been done by adoption.com would clearly give the State of California jurisdiction. The key here though is that this deals with the Internet which seems to have its own set of rules. Under normal circumstances I would expect the Butlers to prevail, however, we are very early in our creation of statutes and case law that pertain to the Internet. Because of that, the outcome of this case will be very difficult to predict.