Wisc. & Ohio Court Decisions Show Lesbian &Gay Parents Continue to Struggle for Parental Rights
June 25, 2010 by Sarah Warbelow, State Legislative Director
Recent Wisconsin and Ohio court cases reveal the legal uncertainty that lesbian and gay parents face. Yesterday, a Wisconsin appellate court ruled that a woman who raised two adopted children in a same-sex relationship for years has no parental rights. The Wisconsin woman, Wendy, adopted two children with her former partner. Since Wisconsin law does not allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt, Wendy and her partner could not both be legal guardians. Wendy’s partner became the legal guardian so that the children could be on her health care plan. Wendy left her job and stayed home with the children. When the couple separated, Wendy petitioned the court for legal guardianship. Today, a Wisconsin appellate court ruled that she is not a legal parent to the two children. The court reasoned that a legal parent is either an adoptive parent or a biological parent, and Wendy is neither. Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed Julie Smith’s attempt to void a shared-parenting agreement imposed by a trial judge. While living with her former partner, Julie Rowell, Smith was artificially inseminated and gave birth to a daughter. Smith asserts that Rowell was never a co-parent to her daughter and should not be awarded shared custody. Smith asked the state supreme court to find that the trial judge overstepped her legal duties by granting shared custody to Rowell. The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed Smith’s case, upholding the trial judge’s shared-parenting agreement without comment. Both cases shows that lesbian and gay parents face great legal uncertainty in states that do not offer equal rights to all loving parents.
Contributed by Nahid Sorooshyari, Summer 2010 McCleary Law Fellow