A couple of months ago, I mentioned the case of Gena Edvalson and Jana Dickson, a former couple now involved in a custody and visitation dispute over the three-year-old son they created together through assisted insemination and raised together until their breakup in 2007. Dickson, the bio mom, is now married to a man and is represented by the conservative Alliance Defense Fund. While living together in Utah, she and Dickson had both signed a co-parenting agreement. At the time of my first post, it was unclear if the courts would uphold that as evidence of Edvalson's parental status.
The Utah Third Judicial District Court has just ruled that Edvalson has no rights to the child and must lose even the weekly visitation that the judge had granted until the ruling. The court also stated that the contract "directly offends the state's public policy that parents retain the fundamental right to exercise the primary control over the care and supervision of their children."
It all boils down to how one answers the question: "Who is a parent?"
At her personal site, The Lost Mom, Edvalson wrote:
Last week the judge ruled in her favor. . . . I lost my son. He lost another adult (nay, a mom) who loves him. They lost their souls.
In an earlier post, she said:
I never want him to think I gave him up voluntarily. I never abandoned him. I loved him and I love him still.
But still we, he and I, wait. We wait to see what our citizenship in this great country means. We wait to see if laws can expand fast enough to prevent real suffering. We wait.
It's strange to live in both the present and the future. I know that one day this will be a non-issue. People will wonder how we could be cruel, so barbaric to rip a child from their mama. We will look at the reasons that the people doing it gave and see them as archaic and tragic. That will happen, for that I am sure. 20 years, 30 years, maybe 50 years. Yet right now, I'm not sure that our societies expanding values and notions of decency will happen fast enough to help me. My future is still within the scope of the narrow views that embody public policy and cultural warfare.
My heart goes out to her and her son. There are no words to convey the loss.
[Addendum: After I wrote the above piece, the Salt Lake Tribune did an article about the case. Interestingly, they report: "An attorney who defends parents in abuse, neglect and custody cases, Dickson said she is a 'stronger believer than ever' in the right of lesbians to marry and adopt -- if the biological mom wants her partner to do so."
Nope. Sorry. Any same-sex couple that decides to become parents together must do so with an understanding of equality between the partners. Going into parenthood with the belief that the biological parent somehow has more rights will lead to trouble in the relationship, and that's not good for the parents or the children. Yes, the law often gives the biological parent the upper hand. The law also often does not recognize the parents' relationship with each other. That doesn't mean we aren't free to define our own relationships to our partners and children with more equality than the law provides. That's called integrity.]