Lesbians Given Joint Custody

Superior Court Judge Vincent Grasso on Monday ruled that an estranged lesbian couple must share custody of their two-year-old son. The judge stated that the non-biological mother, identified as R.E.M., had shown her capability as a parent and should be recognized as one.

The couple had together agreed to have a child. According to Judge Grasso, they shared the responsibility and duties of childrearing as equal parents; they chose the sperm donor together and both went to every OB-GYN appointment. R.E.M. stayed at home to take care of the child, while S.L.V., the biological mother, went to work. The boy identified each woman as mother; one went by “mommy”, the other by “ma mere.”

Kate Kendall, head of the National Center for Gay and Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, said, “It’s an enormous victory. It recognizes that biology is not the sole determining factor of whether someone is a parent.”

However, the judge’s decision is not legally binding throughout the state of New Jersey. Preceding this decision, issued in Ocean County, an opinion issued in Essex County in September, rendered the opposite verdict. For the time being, R.E.M. has been granted the unique position of standing as a parent.


AP - November 4, 1998

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