Several states have voted to approve gay marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the Defense of Marriage Act last summer. Even as this was being written, a 15th state legalized gay marriage, with a 16th likely before the end of the month.
Same-sex marriage is not legal in Ohio, but married and unmarried gay couples live in Columbus and have legal issues in common with heterosexual families. Ohio courts cannot ignore matters like child custody, including same sex custody litigation.
In another state, where same-gender marriages remain illegal, a state Supreme Court recently ruled on a same-sex custody matter. At the center of the case were parental rights for a woman, whose fertilized egg contributed to the birth of a baby girl in 2004. Both women have biological connections to the child.
The case was first heard before a trial judge, who sided with the birth mother. An appeals court felt both women had equal parental rights. The state Supreme Court affirmed the second ruling.
Court records said the women intended to be parents together, although the partners broke up a few years after the child’s birth. The women shared the expenses of reproductive services, stated publicly they were parents and hyphenated the girl’s last name to reflect the biological parents’ names.
The birth mother fled the country with the child after the couple’s breakup. A detective later located the mother and daughter in Australia.
In most cases, an anonymous egg donor has no parental rights, but the court decided the partners’ initial intent to raise the child together was more important. The woman who fought for custody now has the opportunity to emotionally and financially support a daughter she hasn’t seen in six years.
Laws dealing with same-sex couple matters, even in states with legal gay marriage, are not solidified. Attorneys are prepared to help Ohio same-sex couples deal with legal obstacles.
Source: abcnews.go.com, “Fla. Supreme Court Settles Lesbian Custody Battle” Brendan Farrington, Nov. 07, 2013