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Study: Custody decisions in and out of Ohio favor heterosexuals

Will Ohio join 17 other states by approving gay marriage this year? Reuters recently reported the issue could be up for a vote as soon as this fall, if enough signatures are gathered to propose a state constitutional amendment. Gay marriage and the recognition of legal gay marriages performed outside the state currently are outlawed.

Legislation and, therefore, judges' rulings often lag behind changes in the way society thinks. For example, 62 percent of Ohio voters agreed same-sex marriage should be banned a decade ago. According to a February Quinnipiac survey, half of 1,370 registered state voters now favor gay marriage.

A judge recently ruled Ohio must acknowledge legal marriages of same-sex couples, although the case remains caught up in appeal. In the meantime, same sex custody litigation for Columbus couples revolves around laws that do not include gay rights. The findings of a newly-published Drexel University study may be no surprise – courts choose heterosexual parents over gay parents in custody cases.

The Drexel review found a disparity between gay parenting research and court decisions about same-sex custody matters. While gay couples' parenting skills have been shown to match those of their heterosexual counterparts, a parent's sexual orientation still factors into judges' rulings. Being gay is a disadvantage in a parental rights dispute, when the other parent is heterosexual.

Gay parents, in and out of states where same-sex marriage is forbidden, wrangle over child custody and visitation privileges through genetic and legal links to children. Non-biological gay parents and those without adoption rights can be excluded entirely from a child's life. The university review suggests lawmakers and courts take into account the effects rulings like these have on children, a family court's foremost consideration.

Married, unmarried, separated and divorced same-sex couples may not be clear about parenting rights in Ohio. Many gay parents seek legal advice, even when custody is not in dispute.

Source: Drexel Now, "In Child Custody Disputes, LGBT Parents Face Bias in the Courts, New Drexel Review Finds" No author given, Apr. 14, 2014

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