The fifth floor at Tulsa County Courthouse is busy and a little loud. Families sit huddled together, some holding cakes and balloons. Some holding each other while they await their turn in the judge’s chambers.
All Souls’ Rev. Barbara Prose rode the elevator to the fifth floor to meet one family she had gotten to know on Sunday mornings. As soon as she stepped out, arms opened to offer her hugs. Mandie and Lacey Carlile had been eagerly awaiting her arrival. She was there to bless the family as the adoption papers for their two children were about to become official.
Lacey raised her son, now 10, and daughter now 5, as a single mother before meeting her wife, Mandie. They were married the day after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its ban on same sex marriage in five states, including Oklahoma. Lacey was in class when she got the news it was now legal for her to marry the love of her life. “I called Mandie and then my mom. I was in tears,” Lacey said. They were married at her parent’s home at a private ceremony, by Rev. Victor Parachin, an All Souls member and guest minister.
It wasn’t long before the Tulsa World reported Oklahoma was allowing same sex, step-parent adoptions. The catch was the couple had to be married for a full year before Mandie could legally adopt both children.
In November 2015, Mandie and Lacey began the process of petitioning the court for the adoption of their son and daughter. State law requires specific measures to be taken to notify the biological fathers of their right to contest the adoption. Neither man had been a part of either child’s life.
After both were legally notified, their son’s father granted the adoption by not showing up to contest. This allowed for an adoption without consent. Their daughter’s father, along with his family members contested the adoption, setting it for trial. Since both children’s biological fathers’ are of Native American decent, Creek and Cherokee, under the Indian Child Welfare Act, their attorney had to notify the tribes of the pending adoptions. The tribes then had to agree to the respective adoptions.
After the Creek Nation conducted a home study they agreed for the adoption to proceed. The Cherokee Nation sent a representative to the trial who also agreed to the adoption.
The trial began in April 2016 and concluded the following May. The trial stirred a sudden interest and need to be involved from the father’s family members. Despite never having any involvement with the children before, they now had opinions on what was best for their children. The stress of it all caused Mandie and Lacey to keep a low profile, online and in-person. Understandably so, their family’s fate was in the hands of two tribal nations and a perceived conservative judge.
Thankfully, the trial ended with their daughter’s father conceding and relinquishing his parental rights. Judge Glassco approved the adoption and set the finalization date for June 10, 2016.
On June 10, Rev. Prose met with the family at the courthouse and waited for the Carlile name to be called. They were joined by Lacey’s mom Lori, Mandie’s mom, Sandra, and her aunt, PJ. Their daughter sat close to her Grandma Lori on the court bench. Their son stayed glued to his iPad, looking serious with his vest and slicked back hair. Everyone had been waiting for this day and no one was taking the outcome for granted.
Judge Glassco welcomed the family in and asked if they were ready. “Yes!” everyone shouted. Mandie held her soon-to-be legal daughter on her hip as the lawyer went through the mandatory proceedings. Their son and daughter were both invited up to officiate the adoption with a bang of the gavel and a loud, “It is so ordered!”
Despite Mandie being listed as the father on the children’s amended birth certificates, they are officially a family now. Mandie and Lacey are happily married and loving parents to two awesome children. With the deed done, Judge Glassco invited everyone to take pictures in front of the flag to commemorate the day and Rev. Prose offered a blessing which brought the family to tears.
“Because of how history is unfolding we know that Love … Love Beyond Belief … is very powerful …. powerful enough in fact, to change the laws of the state of Oklahoma.“
Mandie and Lacey continued the celebration later that evening in the All Souls garden. The party came together beautifully and was one for the books…especially since three bakeries and as many photographers had refused their business!
The cake was full of rainbow pride and love. Mandie, Lacey, and the kids were joined by family and friends to celebrate their victory and one more step toward full human rights for all in Oklahoma.