Elton John & David Furnish v. Adoption Media, LLC (updated) | Joseph William Singer | October 28, 2014

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Elton John & David Furnish v. Adoption Media, LLC (updated)

note: Although this problem was inspired by the case of Butler v. Adoption Media, LLC, 486 F. Supp. 2d 1022 (N.D. Cal. 2007), it involves an original fact scenario that alters the facts as presented in the federal district court opinion in that case. Allegations created for the purpose of this problem should not be construed as assertions of fact about the persons involved in Adoption Media, LLC, their business, or their website.

 

Defendants Dale R. Gwilliam and Nathan W. Gwilliam ("the Gwilliams") are Arizona residents who run businesses that operate adoption-related websites. These  websites constitute the largest, most active, and most well-known Internet adoption-related business in the United States. One of the websites, ParentProfiles.com, offers a service that allows prospective adoptive parents, for a fee, to post "profiles" containing information about themselves, for review by women who have given birth or are about to give birth and plan to give up the children for adoption.

Plaintiffs Elton John and David Furnish were registered as domestic partners in the state of Washington in July 2007 several months after Washington adopted its domestic partnership law. The voters in Washington approved a same-sex marriage law that took effect on December 6, 2012. John and Furnish were married on May 6, 2013. They had talked for a long time about the possibility of adopting a child. They were certified and approved to adopt in Washington, and on June 1, 2013, applied to have their profile posted on ParentProfiles.com, paying the require $250 fee and signing an agreement with ParentProfiles.com. Two days later, they received an e-mail rejecting their application to post their profile on the website and were told that a check for $250 was in the mail to return the fee to them. No reason was given. When John inquired over the phone, he was told that the website did not serve same-sex couples.

On July 1, 2013, John and Furnish sued ParentProfiles.com in state court in Washington alleging violations of the Washington Law Against Discrimination, Wash. Rev. Code § 49.60.030, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation. They seek damages for violation of their civil rights and for emotional distress, as well as injunctive relief ordering defendants to cease discriminating against them and other prospective adoptive parents from Washington and place their names on defendants' website. Defendants argue that Arizona law applies and that under Arizona law, they are entitled to refuse to provide services to same-sex couples since no statutes in Arizona prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accommodations. Defendants also argue that plaintiffs are subject to Arizona law because they agreed to be bound by it, noting that the contract signed by the couple contained a choice-of-law clause for Arizona law.

 

1. Does the Washington Law Against Discrimination apply to defendant's Arizona conduct?

2. If the Washington Law Against Discrimination regulates defendant's conduct, is the choice-of-law clause enforceable?

 

π = Elton John & David Furnish

∆ = Adoption Media

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October 08, 2015

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Joseph William Singer

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