HRC Blog

EQUALITY IN THE COURTS: Supreme Court Turns Down Lesbian Parental Rights Case

Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal brought by anti-equality forces challenging a lower court’s determination that a non-biological lesbian mother is a legal parent of her child.  In denying review of Kristina S. v. Charisma R., the Supreme Court loosely affirmed the holding of the California Court of Appeal holding that Charisma was a legal parent; however, this decision holds little precedential value for other cases, as denial of certiorari does not carry the same weight as a conclusive ruling on the topic by the Supreme Court. Charisma and Kristina began dating in 1997, moved in together a year later, and registered as domestic partners in California in early 2002.  In April 2003, Kristina delivered Amalia, a daughter the couple had planned together; Charisma took part in the conception and birth of the child, and she parented Amalia full-time.  When Amalia was three months old, Kristina moved out of the family’s home and took Amalia with her.  She allowed Charisma to visit Amalia twice between this time and 2008. Charisma, with representation by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, sued for parental rights and was initially denied by the trial court, but after an appeal and remand the trial court determined that, under a gender-neutral reading of the Uniform Parentage Act, Charisma was Amalia’s presumptive parent and that Kristina had not rebutted the presumption.  The relevant provision presumes paternity of a man who receives a child into his home and openly holds that child out as his natural child.  At this time the court adopted a plan of reunification for Charisma and Amalia.  Kristina, represented by Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Counsel, appealed with no success: the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision and rejected Kristina’s evidentiary, equal protection and due process claims; the California Supreme Court chose not to review the case; and yesterday the United States Supreme Court did the same. Contributed by Kate Oakley, Winter 2010 McCleary Law Fellow

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