Dana Rudolph

Enough Already!

Filed By Dana Rudolph | May 14, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: adoption rights, child custody, Florida, NCLR, parenting, second-parent adoption

Nancy Polikoff wrote yesterday about NCLR's great win in Florida, when the Florida Court of Appeals ruled that the state must give "full faith and credit" to adoption decrees from other states. The ruling stemmed from a case in which one mom was trying to withhold custody of the child her former partner had adopted (through second-parent adoption) in another state.

Nancy rightly expresses her disgust at lesbian mothers who try to pretend their exes weren't parents at all. As it happens, I've compiled a list of several such cases, which I present below if only to show that there's entirely too much of this going around. It seems particularly prevalent among the "ex-lesbian" set.

  • Utahns Gena Edvalson and Jana Dickson are in exactly this situation, as reported two weeks ago by the Salt Lake City Weekly. Dickson is the bio mom, now married to a man. Edvalson, the non-bio mom, has no legal rights to the child—except that she and Dickson both signed a co-parenting agreement. It is unclear whether this carries any weight under Utah law.
  • The Montana Supreme Court is considering a similar case, though without a co-parenting contract between the women. The bio mom has enlisted the help of the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, and claims to be no longer a lesbian.
  • A New York state appeals court recently ruled against a non-bio mom claiming custody rights over the child who was born to her partner after the two women had a civil union in Vermont.
  • In 2007, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that parents do not have the right to visitation with non-biological children. The ruling stemmed from a custody case instigated by an ex-lesbian mom, working with an anti-gay legal organization. The non-bio mom, Keri Jones, said she will not appeal the ruling, explaining that she feared a federal court would rule the same way, and "Having that kind of ruling on a national level would be horrific."
  • Also in 2007, a Georgia mother tried to revoke the state's second-parent adoption laws in order to prevent her ex-partner from custody. The Advocate reported she is "rethinking her sexuality." The Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
  • A mom in Ohio in 2007 tried to use the state's ban on same-sex marriage to deny her ex-partner visitation, saying the ban also invalidated the right to co-parent. Not exactly an "ex-gay" case—but if we could revoke someone's toaster oven. . . .
  • Then there's the interminable Jenkins vs. Miller case, again with an "ex-lesbian" bio mom.

Sadly, this is likely not a comprehensive list.

Fine. So you've split up. So you're no longer a lesbian. Or maybe you are. It doesn't matter. Having continuing and connection with the two people who raised them is in the best interests of the children.

Unless there's some major psychological issue that would make one person unfit to parent, as determined by legitimate medical professionals, there's no reason to pursue sole custody, especially if you do so by attacking the fitness of LGBT parents as a whole. That affects the lives of more families than your own, and is a betrayal of the worst type. Is that the kind of lesson you want to teach your children?

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Fantastic post, Dana! Nancy posted on the Beacon Press blog about some of these cases last year.

It's hard enough fighting the religious right on parenting and marriage equality issues without a bunch of "ex-gays" making their families part of the battle. I feel so terrible for the kids involved...

christophe | May 14, 2009 3:32 PM

These women give the fundies the ammunition they need by basically affirming being gay is a choice. Honestly, I don't know how this is thought of in the lesbian community but the majority of gay men tend to feel that anyone who is an "ex-gay" is simply hiding their true feelings.

I find it interesting in light of the fact that women have always had a serious advantage in divorces from men, where children were concerned. In light of that, watching women start to try to deny the parenthood of other women is just a continuation of a common legal strategy with a slight reapplication. It is nasty either way.

As I see it the biggest danger is that as we try to get more queer views of family accepted and provided legal standing and rights these cases appear to be our own folks changing their minds and saying that these models are not acceptable. It hurts us all.

I almost lost custody of two of my own kids because the law in the State of Texas encoded the requirement that my toddlers had to automatically be given to their bio-mom in a divorce rather than to me just because she was female. I managed to end up with them by delaying everything until the law was changed, but that was scary.

Living in Florida, this has been a hot topic in recent days/weeks. I'm not a lesbian, but as a non-custodial mother, I just want to say that I know how this feels.

My ex used his fancy expensive lawyer to take my two sons from me, and now despite "joint custody", I can't get so much as a phone call to them, let alone my court ordered visitation. Despite being his wife and their mother then, suddenly, I've been replaced by a new wife, and apparently "no longer needed" in his opinion (of course, my support checks are needed, but that's neither here nor there).

I hope that second parent adoptions for same sex couples start to get the recognition it deserves. Adoption papers are court orders. COURT ORDERS. You can't just arbitrarily toss aside a court order because you feel like it, or because you "changed your mind/religion/sexual orientation/whatever". The second parent's rights are just as important as yours (the bio parent's), and you're the one who helped make it that way.

Now... I'm going to go check the mail to find out when my contempt hearing is. Namaste.