The Essential Nature of Second Parent Adoption

What is Second Parent Adoption?

Second parent adoption (also sometimes known as co-parent adoption) is the administrative process through which one partner in a same-sex relationship can become the legally recognized parent of their partner’s biological or adopted child, along with their partner and without the other partner’s parental rights being terminated. Although morally parents should not have to adopt their own children, for whom they planned either biologically through their partner or through adoption, it is strongly advisable to go through this process in order to ensure the security of the child in case of the initial parent’s death, and for logistical purposes when parental responsibility is required in legal, medical and other situations. This is advisable even if the parents are married or in a civil union, as some States and countries do not recognize the legal relationship of the parents to be an indicator of their relationship to their child. Second parent adoption is usually the process taken by unmarried couples, as step-parent adoption is available for those adopting their spouse’s child.

 

Why choose Second Parent Adoption?

Second parent adoptions are widely viewed by LGBT legal rights experts as the best option for children, as it has been found that it increases emotional, psychological, legal and financial security. It is common to think that if you are married or in a civil partnership, you are legally safe when it comes to your rights as a parent. In some places, this is true. New York, for example, recognizes both same-sex partners as parents of a child without second parent adoption being a legal requirement. If, however, you ever want to visit relatives in a different State or go travelling to a different country, it is essential that you are legally recognized as the parent on an international level. Your legal parental status affects decisions such as your child’s healthcare, where they go to school and who would look after them in case of parental death. In 2014 a controversial decision was reached by a Judge in New York, who refused to grant a second parent adoption based on the fact that the couple’s rights were protected whilst they remained in New York.

 

Differences in State Law

Although every State must allow adults in same-sex relationships to petition for secondSame-sex Parenting Wins Increased Rights in Oklahoma parent adoption if the partners are married, the same does not apply for those in relationships that are not legally binding. Fourteen States currently allow the process for non-married same-sex partners:

California; Colorado; Connecticut; District of Columbia; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Maine; Massachusetts; New Jersey; New York; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania and Vermont.

These fourteen further States have allowed the process for couples at some point:

Alaska; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Iowa; Louisiana; Maryland; Minnesota; Oregon; Rhode Island; Texas; Washington and West Virginia.

There are also States that prohibit or limit fostering and adoption by LGBT adults. The current limitations include:

 

  1. The Alabama Court of Appeals ruled that (unmarried) same-sex couples cannot use the stepparent adoption procedures. However, married same-sex spouses must be allowed to do so.
  2. Arizona gives a preference to married couples over a single adult in adoption placement.
  3. The Kansas Court of Appeals recently ruled that Kansas does not permit second parent or co-parent adoption by unmarried couples.
  4. A Kentucky court has said that Kentucky does not permit unmarried couples to use the stepparent adoption procedures.
  5. Mississippi has a statute that prohibits adoptions by couples of the same gender, but under the Supreme Court ruling, Mississippi must allow same-sex spouses to adopt on equal terms with other married couples.
  6. Nebraska does not permit co-parent adoption by unmarried couples.
  7. North Carolina does not permit co-parent adoption by unmarried couples.
  8. Ohio does not permit co-parent adoption by unmarried couples.
  9. Utah does not permit anyone cohabiting in a non-marital sexual relationship to adopt. Utah also gives a preference to married couples over any single adult in adoptions or foster care placement.
  10. Wisconsin does not permit second parent or co-parent adoption by unmarried couples.

Getting Help with The Process

Deciding to adopt a child is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. It is a decision made from a place of extraordinary love and compassion and one that will take you on an incredible journey; a pathway that is hopefully filled with joy and ends with the family you dream of. It can also be an overwhelming experience; dealing with myriad professionals such as lawyers, agencies and physicians can be stressful and it is best to start from a place of knowledge and confidence. Anthony M. Brown is head of the Nontraditional Family and Estates Division of the law firm of Albert W. Chianese & Associates and specializes in same-sex relationship estate planning and co-parent adoption. If you have questions about adoption you can get in touch with him here.

Step Parent Adoption

To read more about Step Parent Adoption, click here.

Domestic Adoption Has New Face

What is Domestic Adoption?

Domestic adoption refers to a situation whereby the child is placed with its adoptive parents voluntarily by its birth parents, who then legally consent to transfer their parental rights. Years ago, it would have been viewed as a risky process, with horror stories of birth parents coming back to ‘claim’ their child exploited by the media. In recent times, more information and education has become available, allowing thousands of hopeful parents to adopt the child of their dreams in an often smooth and clear process.

Why Domestic Adoption?

There are several reasons that parents looking to adopt a child may look into domestic adoption. The availability of children is higher than most people expect- In the most recent year for which accurate data exists, there were over 18,000 domestic non-relative adoptions of newborns within the United States. Although the number of people placing their children for adoption has fallen dramatically since the 1970s due to the stigma of single-parenthood thankfully decreasing, there are still many birth parents making the painful but loving choice to look for a family for their biological child.

Adoptive parents who are anxious about wait times can also be reassured. Most families successfully adopt less than two years after beginning the adoption process, and many of these have far less time to wait. Katie and Jeffrey Davis from Maryland were matched with a birth mother less than a month after their agency filled out the initial paperwork, and were able to take their daughter home with them seven months after the process had started.

If you feel that newborn adoption is your preferred pathway to parenthood, domestic adoption is probably the best route. International adoptions involve lengthy waits and several trips to to child’s country of origin, meaning that the children who are available to be adopted are often at least two years old by the time the adoptive parents are able to bring them home. in 2013 only 541 (7%) of the 7,092 children adopted internationally were under 1 year old, according to the U.S. Department of State. Those who opt for a domestic adoption may be matched with a birth mother who knows that adoption is the best option for her child, meaning that adoptive parents are often able to support her throughout the pregnancy and are able to bond with their child before it is even born.

Costs are also a factor.  Although there are always costs involved when adopting a child, visa fees and the cost of flights and accommodation in an international country (as well as time off work) do not have to be factored in when considering adopting from ones own country.

 

Logistics To Consider During A Domestic AdoptionAnthony. M. Brown is head of the Nontraditional Family and Estates Division of the law firm of Albert W. Chianese & Associates and specializes in domestic adoption and second-parent adoption.

The adoption of the child can be done in one of two ways. The first is to engage an agency to walk you through the process and to help you with paperwork and the emotional upheaval that such a big life decision will inevitably bring. The benefits to involving an agency are numerous; for example, having your own ‘Adoption Specialist’ who will help you communicate with the various other professionals who need to be involved in the process such as social workers, physicians and lawyers. Financial assistance may be available to help cover legal fees, and agencies often do not charge to process the adoption.

The second is a private arrangement whereby a birth mother and prospective parents arrange the adoption between themselves. They will have to hire lawyers and meet the legal requirements of adoption such as age, ability to care for the child and other important aspects. Parents who want to adopt are able to ‘advertise’ for a birth mother, and mothers who have chosen adoption for their child are able to to the same for an adoptive family.

 

With regards to future contact, the birth mother is rightly entitled to choose how all parts of the adoption of her baby proceed. This includes which family adopts the child; the logistical proceedings at the hospital; how much contact she has with the child in the future, and other aspects of the process. Society has evolved a great deal when it comes to adoption and the secretive, shameful process it was once considered to be has blossomed into a beautiful and loving pathway for children to be cared for by loving parents. It is becoming increasingly clear that honesty and openness is good for adopted children and the birth mother and adoptive parents often agree on an ongoing contact arrangement, whereby the biological family can be updated on the child’s progress and there may be mutual contact such as visits, phone calls or letters. The details of open adoption are completely individual according to each adoption case, so families can consider what they would like for their child and what they would be comfortable with. Arrangements vary from regular meetings with the child to annual letters sent through an intermediary.

 

The amount of information and the pros and cons of the different pathways about adoption can be overwhelming for prospective parents looking for their much longed-for child. Anthony M. Brown is head of the Nontraditional Family and Estates Division of the law firm of Albert W. Chianese & Associates and specialises in domestic adoption and second-parent adoption. If you have questions about adoption you can get in touch here.

Gestational Surrogacy Contract Enforced in PA

Surrogacy ContractSuperior Court of PA Rules to Enforce Gestational Surrogacy Contract

In the first ruling of its kind from the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, an appellate level court, the court ruled that a gestational surrogacy contract is enforceable.

This is a great step forward for ethical, regulated surrogacy.  It essentially opens the door a bit wider for couples living in states such as New York, who have not yet embraced regulated surrogacy.  As more becomes available, I will share.  However, if you would like to read the decision, click the link below.

 

Click here to read the opinion.

November 23, 2015

The Family I Never Thought I’d Have

By Anthony M. Brown – November 21, 2015

What is it about families?   Wars have been fought over them. History has been made because of them. Comedians and therapists have made millions talking about them. But when it all boils down, family makes us who we are, whether standing with them or running from them.

familyMy husband Gary’s blind Aunt Elda died about 5 years ago. We got her cancer diagnosis a year or so  before her death, and it took a while for it to hit home that there was no successful treatment for her ovarian/GI cancer. She had lived outside Gary’s family for many years, in large part due to her husband Chuck. Chuck was perhaps the most prejudiced, bigoted, intolerant man I had ever met. His willingness to make racist or homophobic statements in my husband’s and my presence was almost as strong as his love for Elda. But he physically removed Elda from the family by moving out of state and at one point actually said to her, “you better hope you die first because your family will never be there for you.” Chuck died first.  And we were there for her.

In the perfect ironic twist, Chuck’s mentor and most respected business manager, a man named Ralph Thomas, was also my father’s best friend. He cringed when I would talk about Ralph and his wife in very personal terms as I saw them often before my father died. On Uncle Chuck’s deathbed, everything changed.

Chuck had suffered a series of strokes, the last one leaving him unable to communicate. Gary and I were visiting him in the hospital when I noticed that he was agitated. I knew from my father’s deathbed experience how to shift a person up in the bed by lifting the small blanket placed under the patient and on top of the bed linens. I asked Chuck if he wanted to move up. He blinked his eyes rapidly. Gary and I lifted the blanket, and Chuck, successfully up in the bed. As our eyes met, I could swear I saw him crying and with that, a world of misunderstanding and homophobia flew right out the hospital window.

I don’t know what chuck would have made of the fact that I am a donor dad and have two beautiful little girls with two wonderful women who are their parents or that my husband and I have a son  who has a surrogate mom, but both my family and Gary’s family get it.  And it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

Gary’s father throughout this time had been enduring a prolonged battle with Parkinson’s disease, which, toward the end of his life, left him mentally aware, yet unable to communicate. If he could have, he would have probably yelled. Italians yell, that’s just the way it is. It took me, a southern WASP, years of therapy to realize that Gary’s screaming had more to do with his heritage than anything I may have done. He learned that from his parents. And while they didn’t really communicate, they yelled, A LOT.

Even with the Parkinson’s, Gary’s parents yelled at each other. It used to bother me, but now I get it. While home over one weekend fairly close to may father-in-law’s death, we watched the ultimate tearjerker movie, The Notebook, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. It tells the tale of a man who reads a handwritten story to a woman in a nursing home everyday until she realizes, through her dementia, that it is their love story. For a few minutes, she remembers, then he is a stranger again.

At the conclusion of the movie, Gary’s mom was sitting in Gary’s lap, both crying, and I was holding my father-in-law’s hand, also crying. Tears everywhere. Gary’s parents hugged each other and, in a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life, Gary’s dad, who had not been able to communicate clearly for months,  looked at his wife of over 60 years and said, “I didn’t know that this was what you’ve been dealing with.   I am sorry.” In that amazing, crystalline moment – we all lost it. Gary’s mom replied that she loved him and that she wanted to take care of him. Gary and I hugged while this exchange occurred knowing that a gift had just been given to everyone in that room.

Enter Michael, Gary’s older brother, who had been watching this whole emotional experience transpire with his then girlfriend, now wife, Xiao from the other room. Xiao is Chinese and had never met a gay person, much less a gay couple, before dating Michael. They had only been dating for a few months when this happened. Michael told me that Xiao had also seen the hug–fest and asked, “How long have Tony and Gary been together?” Michael replied, “almost 20 years.” Xiao said, “Do you think we will be like that in 20 years?” Michael said, “I hope so.”

Regardless what people think about their in-laws, there are lessons to be learned from them, joys and sorrows to be experienced because of them. These are the things that only a family can provide and while many on the less tolerant side of the aisle would either discount or misunderstand my family, no one can change the fact that I am married to a man and that I married into a family that loves and respects both me and my husband. I have children that will learn their values from this amazing family and my children will continue to teach me theirs.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

 

Anthony M. Brown currently heads the Nontraditional Family and Estates Law division of the law firm of Albert W. Chianese & Associates, PC, specializing in estate planning and second and step-parent adoptions. Anthony is the Board Chariman of Men Having Babies, and is the Executive Director of The Wedding Party.  He can be reached at: Anthony@timeforfamilies.com.

 

About MHB

Men Having Babies, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that was spun off in July 2012 from a program that ran at the NYC LGBT Center since 2005. It started as a peer support network for biological gay fathers and fathers-to-be, offering monthly workshops and an annual seminar. Over time, elaborate online resources were developed, the group’s mailing list expanded to about 2000 couples and singles from around the world, and it teamed up with LGBT family associations to develop similar programs in Chicago, San Francisco, LA, Barcelona, Tel Aviv and Brussels.

 

Our mission includes:

  • The provision of educational and practical information to assist gay prospective parents achieve biological parenting.
  • Promoting the affordability of surrogacy related services for gay men through financial assistance and the encouragement of transparency and customer feedback.
  • Promoting surrogacy practices that minimize the risks and maximize the potential short and long-term benefits to all involved.
  • Raising awareness about the potential benefits and meaningful relationships surrogacy arrangements can bring about.

 

Beyond the seminars and workshops, Men Having Babies runs several programs to promote its educational, advocacy and affordability mission, including:

Assistance in academic studies about gay parenting and surrogacy.

Second parent adoption key to creating security

Growing evidence around secure, same-sex families shows that their children are happy and healthy.  Securing those families through second parent adoption or step parent adoption is key to creating this security.

Second parent adoption is needed and recommended as one tenet of the debate surrounding same-sex marriage has focused on whether same-sex parents provide poorer conditions for raising children compared with different-sex parents. Political and public dialogue ensures that this notion remains pervasive and persuasive, even though the Supreme Court decision this summer ensured marriage equality in the U.S.

And it isn’t just talk: Laws exist that implicitly reflect the rhetoric that somehow same-sex parents are different.

For example, even though same-sex couples make decisions together to have a child, and even if both parents appear on the birth certificate, the nonbiological parent may have limited legal rights over the child.

In Texas, two parents of the same sex are even prohibited from being listed on supplemental birth certificates, only allowing for parents where “one of whom must be a female, named as the mother, and the other of whom must be a male, named as the father.”

Laws and Policies That Undermine Same-Sex Parenting Are Not Based on Science

Although all states offer second parent adoption to same-sex parents in legally recognized unions, only 15 states and the District of Columbia offer second-parent adoption to same-sex parents in cohabiting relationships. This means that in cases where the parents are not married, the nonbiological partner may be denied access to the children.

An underlying assumption about parents in same-sex couples seems to be that same-sex parents are less invested or are unable to follow through on the types of parenting that matter for children.

This type of argument is often rooted in the idea that biological parents who are partnered with each other have an advantage over a parent partnered with someone other than their child’s biological parent, with nonbiological parents less likely to invest or commit to children who are not their “own.”

This is wrong and must stop.

Laws and policies that undermine the rights of same-sex parents are more based on politics than on actual science of how they parent. Same-sex parents who conceive children via assisted reproductive technology, for example, should have the same parental rights as heterosexual parents who conceive via assisted reproductive technology and do not have to jump through the same legal hoop.

Very little research has directly tested whether there are different types of parenting investments by same-sex couples. However, in one study that we conducted, we found no difference in the amount of time parents spend with children between same-sex parents and different-sex mothers. But there is a catch.

Mothers in same-sex relationships, fathers in same-sex relationships, and mothers in heterosexual relationships spent about the same amount of time in child-focused activities, about 100 minutes a day.

Men in heterosexual relationships, however, spent significantly less child-focused time than all three other groups of parents — about 50 minutes per day. That means the only difference that we found tended to favor same-sex couples (and heterosexual mothers).

Importantly, these differences persisted when we controlled for factors that have well-known influences on time spent with children, including parent’s education, the number of children, the age of the children, and parent’s time spent working or commuting.

Here’s the catch to this “no difference” conclusion. When combining estimates across mothers and fathers to look at time investments at the family level, not just by individual parents, children raised in same-sex families would receive an average of 3.5 hours of child-focused time a day, compared with 2.5 hours for children in heterosexual families.

Click here to read the entire article.

 

News.UTexas.edu, by Kate Prickett & Alexa Martin-Storey, November 19, 2015

Same Sex Parenting Cases: Evidence Over Ideology?

Evidence Over Ideology in Same Sex Parenting Cases?

Last Friday, a Utah judge reversed an order in a same sex parenting cases, he had issued just three days earlier that would have removed a young girl from her home because her foster parents are lesbians. Under fierce pressure that even included grumbling by the state’s Republican governor, Judge Scott Johansen issued a temporary reversal after first ruling that it was “not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples.” The shift is good news for the girl and her foster parents, April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce; for child welfare advocates; and for anyone concerned with fairness, equality, or evidence-based policy.

Evidence should trump ideology when deciding on same sex parenting cases

Yet the matter is far from over. Johansen set a December date for the girl’s fate to be argued at a hearing. And the judge’s revised order left intact a critical foundation of his initial reasoning: what the judge still calls “a concern that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home.”

Hoagland and Peirce told a news station they believe the judge relied on his religious beliefs to make his decision, something that would be plainly unconstitutional. Does the judge have any sound reason to give straight couples preference over same-sex ones?

Asked in court to cite any of the “myriad” studies he reportedly referenced in ruling against the same-sex couple, Johansen declined. And for good reason: There are none. A research team I direct, based at Columbia Law School, conducted one of the most exhaustive analyses of peer-reviewed studies on same-sex parenting published over the last 30 years. Our initiative, the What We Know Project, started with the question, “What does the scholarly research say about the well being of children with gay or lesbian parents?” Our results, which are constantly updated as new research emerges, are posted at our site, with links to the studies or their abstracts.

What did we find? Currently, there are 77 scholarly articles that address this question. Of those, 73—the vast majority—found that children raised in same-sex parenting homes fare just as well as their peers. Could the four outliers be the “myriad” studies Johansen is referencing? Not if he’s done an ounce of homework and is being remotely honest about what the research says. For starters, basing a ruling that breaks a family apart on four studies that are contradicted by 73 others is questionable on its face. But equally important, these four studies do not actually prove what their authors claim they do, and anyone who looks at them closely can see that.

Reviewing the studies clarifies that they all suffer from the same fundamental flaw: While the authors tout the importance of large, random samples and imply that that’s what they’re using, they in fact rely on samples that are anything but. Here’s how this works: They start with very large samples that come from a reliable dataset like the census. In some cases the original sample is as large as several million people. Out of this much ballyhooed sample size, researchers struggle to identify families in which a stable, same-sex couple raised children from infancy—the relevant standard, since what’s usually being debated, as in the Utah case, is whether such a couple ought to be allowed to parent. So researchers create their own definitions for what constitutes an “LGB” family, and they are uniformly very loose. In some cases they just ask children if a parent ever had a same-sex relationship and throw the “yes” kids into a category called “LGBT families”—even though they are a world apart from a situation in which children are raised by a stable, same-sex couple. This is not to say one type of family is superior to another, just that we must compare apples to apples to yield any useful conclusions about same-sex parenting. (Many of the gay-supportive studies also use small samples, but their authors don’t suggest otherwise, and—most important—they are actually studying children raised by same-sex parents.)

Click here to read the entire article.

by Nathaniel Frank, Slate.com

California Judge Orders Frozen Embryos Destroyed

embryoFrozen Embryos to be Destroyed Judge Says

In the first decision in California to address a dispute over the fate of frozen embryos after a couple’s divorce, a state judge in San Francisco on Wednesday ordered the destruction of five embryos after a man challenged his ex-wife’s right to use them.

The woman, Mimi C. Lee, a 46-year-old cancer survivor, argued that she would not have another chance to bear biological children. But in 2010, when she and her husband at the time, Stephen Findley, took part in in vitro fertilization, they signed an agreement that the embryos would be destroyed if they ever divorced.

Judge Anne-Christine Massullo of San Francisco Superior Court upheld the agreement.

“Decisions about family and children often are difficult, and can be wrenching when they become disputes,” Judge Massullo wrote. “The policy best suited to ensuring that these disputes are resolved in a cleareyed manner — unswayed by the turmoil, emotion and accusations that attend to contested proceedings in family court — is to give effect to the intentions of the parties at the time of the decision at issue.”

Her ruling is consistent with the pattern across the country. Judges in at least 11 other states, starting with Tennessee in 1992 and including New York and New Jersey, have ruled in post-divorce embryo custody cases. And at least eight of them found in favor of the party who did not want the embryos gestated.

One party’s right not to procreate has usually been considered to trump the other’s right to procreate, said a bioethics professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Law, Lisa Ikemoto — even in cases in which the couples did not sign an agreement as this couple did.

In three states, though, courts have ruled in favor of women who argued that their frozen embryos provided their only chance to have biological children — intermediate appellate courts in Pennsylvania and Illinois and a trial court in Maryland.

Click here to read the entire article.

New York Times, by Andy Newman, November 18, 2015

NYC Surrogacy Highlights of the 11th Annual Men Having Babies Conference

Surrogacy Seminar & Gay Parenting Expo

The 11th Annual NY Men Having Babies 2015

The November 15th Men Having Babies Surrogacy Conference in NY featured several new in-depth panels,
including insurance, budgeting and a broader range of parenting options in the USA, Canada, Mexico and beyond!NYC Surrogacy Seminar & Gay Parenting Expo

For gay men who want to become parents through surrogacy, the Men Having Babies educational conferences are a rare opportunity to get under one roof a wealth of information, advice and access a wide range of relevant service providers from an unbiased non-profit organization. For the first time in NY, we will offer extensive information and a comparative panel about parenting options not just in the USA, but also Canada, Mexico and elsewhere.

The conference is based on a format MHB developed over the last 10 years in NY, San Francisco, Barcelona, Brussels and Tel Aviv. This year we implemented wide programmatic changes based on feedback from attendees and sponsors. The Gay Parenting Expo will be held in a separate space, and several in-depth workshops and panels have been added, and arranged in program tracks that will appeal to prospective parents on different stages of the process.

The conference is co-sponsored and hosted by the LGBTQ Department at the JCC in Manhattan. This centrally located, modern and larger JCC facility allows us to accommodate a growing number of exhibitors and prospective parents. As always, proceeds from sponsorship and exhibiting fees will benefit the Gay Parenting Assistance Program.

Men Having Babies, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that was spun off in July 2012 from a program that ran at the NYC LGBT Center since 2005. It started as a peer support network for biological gay fathers and fathers-to-be, offering monthly workshops and an annual seminar. Over time, elaborate online resources were developed, the group’s mailing list expanded to about 2000 couples and singles from around the world, and it teamed up with LGBT family associations to develop similar programs in Chicago, San Francisco, LA, Barcelona, Tel Aviv and Brussels.

Their mission includes:

  • The provision of educational and practical information to assist gay prospective parents achieve biological parenting.
  • Promoting the affordability of surrogacy related services for gay men through financial assistance and the encouragement of transparency and customer feedback.
  • Promoting surrogacy practices that minimize the risks and maximize the potential short and long-term benefits to all involved.
  • Raising awareness about the potential benefits and meaningful relationships surrogacy arrangements can bring about.

Beyond the seminars and workshops, Men Having Babies runs several programs to promote its educational, advocacy and affordability mission, including:

  • The Gay Parenting Financial Assistance Fund – grants, discounts and free services to gay men who require assistance in their quest for parenthood.
  • The Surrogacy Advisor directory of reviews and ratings of agencies and clinics.
  • A Surrogacy Speakers Bureau – over 100 surrogacy parents who are willing to speak to the press about their experiences.
  • A Community forum on Facebook for gay surrogacy dads, surrogates, and egg donors blogging about their surrogacy and parenting experience.
  • Assistance in academic studies about gay parenting and surrogacy.

 

Same Sex Parenting: OK Supreme Court Landmark Ruling

Same Sex Parenting Wins Increased Rights in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a landmark ruling same sex parenting increasing the rights of noncustodial parents who have been in same-sex relationships. The decision acknowledged the rights of a non-biological parent in a same-sex relationship who has acted as a parent.

The state’s high court ruled that an Oklahoma County judge improperly dismissed the case of Oklahoma City resident Charlene Ramey. The court reversed that decision and remanded the case for further proceedings so Ramey could pursue a hearing on custody and visitation of the child, who was born in 2005. Ramey was in a same-sex relationship with Kimberly Sutton. At the time of the relationship, Oklahoma did not recognize same-sex marriages, which changed following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year not to take up an appeal of Oklahoma’s marriage-equality lawsuit ruling.

The couple agreed to have a child, born by Sutton with a donor. Sutton and Ramey later separated after almost 10 years of same sex parenting, as co-parents. Sutton denied Ramey’s status as a parent and sought to end all interaction between Ramey and the child, according to the opinion.

“Ramey, the plaintiff, is not a mere ‘third party’ like a nanny, friend, or relative, as suggested by the district court,” the ruling states. “On the contrary, Ramey has been intimately involved in the conception, birth and parenting of their child, at the request and invitation of Sutton. Ramey has stood in the most sacred role as parent to their child and always been referred to as ‘mom’ by their child.”

The decision is intended to recognize same-sex couples who, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court legalization of same-sex marriage, entered into committed relationships, engaged in family planning with the intent to parent jointly and share those responsibilities, the ruling states.

“Public policy dictates that the district court consider the best interests of the child and extend standing to the non-biological parent to pursue hearings on custody and visitation,” the ruling says.

Click here to read the entire article.

 

by Barbara Hoberock, November 18, 2015 TulsaWorld.com

Lesbian Couple to Keep Foster Child Utah Judge Shifts Ruling

Utah Judge Reverses Ruling in Favor of Lesbian Couple

A Utah judge on Friday reversed his order to take a foster child away from a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation, state officials said. The judge, Scott N. Johansen of Juvenile Court, had issued an order on Tuesday saying that the child, a 9-month-old girl, had to be removed from the home of a lesbian couple by the end of the day next Tuesday, and placed with a heterosexual couple.

The foster parents, Rebecca A. Peirce, 34, and April M. Hoagland, 38, and the state Division of Child and Family Services, both filed motions Thursday asking the judge to reconsider, and said they were prepared to appeal his decision. The couple, who are married, lives in Price, southwest of Salt Lake City.A Utah judge on Friday reversed his order to take a foster child away from a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation

The clash is the first of its kind, said Ashley Sumner, a spokeswoman for the state agency, because Utah only recently began approving foster child placements with same-sex couples, after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on gay marriage in June.

Under fire from critics including gay rights activists and the state’s Republican governor, a judge in Utah on Friday reversed, at least temporarily, his order that a foster child be taken away from a lesbian couple because it was “not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples.”

While the child may remain with the couple for the moment, Judge Scott N. Johansen signaled that the matter might not be settled. He continued to question the placement of children with same-sex parents, a matter that will be taken up at a Dec. 4 hearing on what is in the best interests of this child, a 9-month-old girl.

The judge’s actions, coming after the Supreme Court this year established a right to same-sex marriage, put him at the center of another front in the nation’s legal and culture wars: the question of whether gay men and women can get, and keep, custody of children under various circumstances.