SAN FRANCISCO - August 22 - “The California Supreme Court made legal history today by holding, in three separate decisions, that children born to same-sex couples must be treated equally to other children and thus have a legally protected relationship to both partners. These decisions are a tremendous victory for children, for parental responsibility, and for common sense.”
This morning the California State Supreme Court issued groundbreaking opinions in three cases involving the legal status of children born to same-sex parents. The three cases are Elisa B. v. Superior Court, K.M. v. E.G., and Kristine H. v. Lisa R. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) was counsel for Emily B., a mother seeking child support from her former partner, in the Elisa B. case and filed amicus briefs in the K.M. and the Kristine H. cases.
In all three cases, the Court held that when a couple deliberately brings a child into the world through the use of assisted reproduction, both partners are legal parents, regardless of their gender or marital status. The California Supreme Court is the first state Supreme Court to reach this issue, and its holding in these three cases inevitably will influence courts in other states.
“The California Supreme Court made legal history today by holding, in three separate decisions, that children born to same-sex couples must be treated equally to other children and thus have a legally protected relationship to both partners,” said Courtney Joslin, NCLR Senior Staff Attorney who argued one of the case before the California Supreme Court. “These decisions are a tremendous victory for children, for parental responsibility, and for common sense.”
In the Elisa B. case a same-sex couple – Emily B. and Elisa B. – had children together using artificial insemination by an anonymous sperm donor. Emily gave birth to twins in 1998, one of which has Down Syndrome. After the twins’ birth, the couple decided that Emily would stay home to care for the children and Elisa would be the family’s breadwinner. When the couple split up 18 months later, Elisa eventually cut off all contact and support, prompting Emily to apply for assistance from the state, which brought a child support action against Elisa. In today’s ruling, the California Supreme Court strongly affirmed the trial court’s ruling that Elisa is a legal parent who cannot simply walk away from her obligation to support the two children she agreed to bring into the world.
“I am elated beyond words that the Court recognized the reality that my children have two parents,” said Emily B. “This is a tremendous victory not only for my family but for all children born to same-sex couples.”
In its decision today, the Court held: “A person who actively participates in bringing children into the world, takes the children into her home and holds them out as her own, and receives and enjoys the benefits of parenthood, should be responsible for the support of those children – regardless of her gender or sexual orientation.”
In the K.M. v. E.G. case, a fertilized egg from K.M. was implanted in her partner E.G., who gave birth to twins in 1996. When the couple broke up in 2002, E.G. denied K.M. any access to the children and took the position that she was the children’s only parent. In its decision today, the Court held that both women are legal parents.
In the Kristine H. v. Lisa R. case, a same-sex couple had a child using assisted reproduction. Before the child was born, the couple sought and were granted a court judgment declaring that both women were the child’s legal parents. After the couple ended their relationship 2 ½ years later, the birth mother filed an action seeking to vacate the judgment and have the court declare that she is the child’s only parent. The Court held today that the birth mother was stopped from challenging the judgment and that both women are legal parents.
For twenty-eight years NCLR has been a national leader on LGBT family issues including adoption, child custody and visitation, alternative insemination, partnership protection, domestic partner benefits, and marriage rights.
The decisions in the three cases can be accessed at: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courts/supreme/.
The briefs in the three cases can be accessed at: http://www.nclrights.org/cases/lesbprntge_suprct.htm.
NCLR is a national legal resource center with a primary commitment to advancing the rights and safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through a program of litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. We can be reached through our website at www.nclrights.org.