California, New York and Florida, state courts have ruled within the past 18 months that lesbian ex-partners are not entitled to visitation rights with children they helped raise, regardless of the established parenting relationship, or even whether the child was conceived by artificial insemination as a joint decision of the couple. Massachusetts, by contrast, recently granted visitation rights to a lesbian woman who helped raise her ex-partner’s son.
Associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s lesbian and gay rights project, Michael Adams, noted the difficulties of addressing a problem that exists in a legal vacuum. “The courts aren’t used to looking at people without a biological relationship as being a child’s parentWe are forced to work within laws passed by legislatures that simply never considered these circumstances, and we can get some very unfortunate results.”
Mary Bonauto, civil rights director for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, pointed to the dangers of such litigation for the gay community. “It is extremely damaging to our community and our families when we disavow as insignificant the very relationships for which we are seeking legal and societal respect to have people within our own community use homophobic law against other gay and lesbian people. “