Adoption appeal rejected White couple claimed rights were violated

October 03, 1995|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,SUN STAFF

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal yesterday from a white Hagerstown couple who argued that the Washington County social services agency violated their civil rights by placing their black foster child for adoption with an African-American family.

The court's decision not to hear the case ends the 3 1/2 -year legal fight that Sylvia and Michael Mauk fought since Tiffany, the little girl they raised for two years, was removed from their home in March 1992. She was placed with a black couple who also adopted her two brothers.

"We knew when we got in it there would be a chance we would lose," Mrs. Mauk said after learning the court turned down the appeal without comment. "But you still have to do what you believe is right. I don't believe there's any color in love."

The Mauks were not asking that Tiffany's adoption be nullified, because the girl is now 5 and doing well. But they said the Washington County Department of Social Services violated their constitutional right to equal protection by using race to deny them the chance to adopt the girl they'd cared for since she was 7 months old. They also contend the county no longer will place black foster children with them.

Last year, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals heard the case and described the social services agency's treatment of the Mauks as "reprehensible."

The court agreed that the agency had committed "a grave injustice" to the Mauks when it removed Tiffany.

But it said that the girl had been gone so long that taking her from her adoptive home would only hurt her more.

The Mauks have two adopted children, one black and one biracial.

Earl Bartjis Jr., the Mauks' lawyer, said that other cases involving white parents having trouble adopting black children are working their way through courts in other states. "It's an issue that's important around the country. It could be the court will take up the issue at a later time," he said.

In another action, the Supreme Court made final a legal victory that an Ellicott City woman, Barbara Hardester, had won in lower federal courts.

She now is expected to collect more than $28,000 in insurance benefits for breast cancer surgery and therapy.

She had applied for insurance through the company that provided health coverage for the family through Alan L. Hardester's job. The insurer refused to pay for the cancer treatments, arguing that Mrs. Hardester had the medical problem before the insurance went into effect.

Ruling primarily upon the actual terms of the insurance contract, federal courts ruled that Mrs. Hardester's condition did not get detected when she had a medical exam a month before she had coverage.

The diagnosis of cancer only came later, the courts decided.

Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. and its subsidiary, Employers Health Insurance Co., took the dispute to the Supreme Court, arguing that the case had "national importance" because the decision seemed to mean that federal law required insurance coverage for pre-existing health conditions that simply had not been diagnosed.

The Supreme Court rejected the appeal without comment.

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