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Posted on Wed, Aug. 24, 2005
Children are the winners in state high court ruling
THE DECISION AFFIRMS EQUAL RIGHTS FOR THOSE BORN TO SAME-SEX PARENTS
San Jose Mercury News Editorial
The three California Supreme Court decisions on same-sex couples Monday were as much about the rights of children born to gay parents as the rights of the gay parents themselves.
The court ruled that all children should be treated equally regardless of whether their parents are gay or straight, married or unmarried. In doing so, the court put an end to injustices that had stripped the children in these and other cases from one of the people who helped bring them into the world. Their right to be supported by both parents, to inherit from both parents and to maintain a relationship with both parents has now been affirmed.
All three cases involved lesbian couples who had made a joint decision to bear children through artificial reproduction, had reared those children together for some time, and had later become estranged.
In one case, a partner had refused to pay child support to her former partner, who was the biological mother of two of their children and still cared for them. In another, the biological mother kept her partner from visiting her children. In the third case, a biological mother had asked a court to invalidate her former partner's legal right to a relationship with her child. In all three cases, the court said the children had two mothers with full parental rights and responsibilities.
There was a time not long ago when American children born out of wedlock didn't have much protection. An unmarried father who did not ``recognize'' a son or daughter could simply walk away from mother and child. That changed in the late 1960s, and it seems unfathomable today that children of unwed parents would not be entitled to fundamental protections.
In a day and age when individuals of the same sex routinely form committed relationships together, start families together and raise children together, it would be equally unconscionable not to extend to those children the rights enjoyed by all other children.
Of course, a child's right to be supported by two parents is also a parent's right to financial support from an estranged partner. And a child's right to maintain a relationship with both parents is a parent's right to maintain a relationship with her child, regardless of the wishes of her estranged partner.
And so the rulings represent another important move toward wearing down the distinctions that unfairly discriminate against same-sex couples. It comes less than three weeks after another important ruling by the same court reaffirmed the state's domestic-partners law. They are hopeful steps along the road to the day when all committed loving couples, gay or straight, will be afforded the full protection of the law.
SF Chronicle Editorial: Parenthood prevails