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Calif. court sets precedent on lesbian parent law
Mon Aug 22, 2005 06:49 PM ET
By Jim Christie
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California's highest court ruled on Monday that lesbians who conceive children while they are a couple must both be treated as parents, even if they are not registered as a couple, giving them rights and responsibilities similar to unmarried heterosexual parents.
Gays in California may register as domestic partners and establish parental rights, but the rulings in three cases broke ground by holding unregistered partners to such standards.
"This is the first time any state supreme court in the country has made this ruling," said Courtney Joslin, a senior staff attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Gay rights activists said the three rulings were significant because they held estranged lesbians who had conceived children with assisted reproductive technology to the same state law as unmarried heterosexual parents who break up.
"These cases build upon and apply existing California family law and hold that these children are entitled to the same protections that all other children are," Joslin added.
The package of three rulings comes amid a bitter debate in California over whether gays should be allowed to marry, an issue San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom thrust into the national spotlight by blessing same-sex weddings in City Hall.
In the ruling on Monday in the case of Elisa B. versus Emily B., the court held a woman is a parent and must provide financial support after backing her lesbian partner's artificial insemination. A lower court had ordered Elisa to pay child support after the couple separated.
"Elisa actively assisted Emily in becoming pregnant, with the understanding that they would raise the resulting children together," the court noted in its opinion.
The court held a biological link is not needed to settle parenthood if a child is conceived by artificial insemination. Additionally, it held the state has an interest in parents supporting children financially after relationships break up.
"We perceive no reason why both parents of a child cannot be women," the court added. "That result now is possible under the current version of the domestic partnership statutes, which took effect this year."
In K.M. versus E.G., the court held two women are parents if one provides ova to her partner to give birth to children and to raise them jointly. In such cases, parental rights and responsibilities cannot be waived, the court added.
In Kristine H. versus Lisa R., the court ruled a woman may not invalidate a declaration of parental rights made with her partner. That would be unfair to their child and "contravene public policy favoring that a child has two parents rather than one," according to the court.
California State Supreme Court upholds rights, responsibilities of same-sex parents - SF Chronicle