U.S. SUPREME COURT rejects challenge to decision protecting children
born to same-sex couples California Court of Appeal ruling stands;
Lesbian mother's parental rights upheld
(San Francisco, CA February 22, 2010) - Today, the United States
Supreme Court denied review in a custody dispute involving a
non-biological lesbian mother whose former partner, the child's
biological mother, was seeking to strip her of any parental rights.
"I am so grateful that my relationship with my six-year-old daughter is
legally protected," said Charisma. "I love my daughter dearly, and I am
relieved the courts have recognized that children born to same-sex
couples deserve the emotional, financial, and physical support of both
of their parents, regardless of the parents' gender or sexual
Charisma R. and Kristina S. were in a committed relationship for six
years and decided to have children together. In 2003, Kristina gave
birth to their child, and Charisma provided the primary care for their
daughter after Kristina returned to work. When their child was only a
few months old, Kristina abruptly left their shared home and refused to
allow Charisma to have any contact with their baby.
Charisma could not afford an attorney, so she filed a petition seeking
parental rights on her own in 2004. The Family Court wrongly held that
she was not a legal parent. NCLR and cooperating attorney Deborah Wald
represented Charisma on appeal, and the Court of Appeal held that under
a recent decision by the California Supreme Court, a same-sex partner
of a biological mother can be a legal parent under California law.
In 2006, the Family Court held that Charisma is a legal parent and
awarded her visitation. With the aid of a therapist, Charisma and her
daughter began to reunify and rebuild their relationship. Meanwhile
Kristina, who is represented by Liberty Counsel, the legal arm of Jerry
Falwell's anti-gay organization, appealed the trial court's decision,
but the California Court of Appeal affirmed that Charisma is a parent.
The California Supreme Court declined to review that decision, and
Kristina then asked the United States Supreme Court to hear the case.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied her petition on Feb. 22, 2010.
"We are extremely pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has put an end to
this distressing attempt by far-right groups to separate a child from
one of her parents, " said Cathy Sakimura, a staff attorney with NCLR.
She added, "Charisma could not have protected her relationship with her
daughter without the free legal representation provided by the private
attorneys who partnered with us in this case. A child should never lose
one of her parents just because the parent can't afford a lawyer."
Charisma is represented pro bono by Amanda List and Deborah Wald, with
assistance from the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). Amy Rose
of Squire Sanders & Dempsey, LLP represented Charisma in the current
appeal. Charisma has been previously represented by Algera Tucker and
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization
committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy
advocacy, and public education. www.nclrights.org
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