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LAW OF THE LAND

Lesbian lover equal
to traditional parent

Court rules woman who helped raise child
has 'parity' with biological, adoptive mothers

The lesbian lover of a child’s biological mother has equal legal rights with traditional parents, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled today.

The case involved a woman who raised a child from birth to age 6 while in a “relationship” with the girl’s biological mother, the Associated Press reported. The ruling means the non-biological “mother” can seek parental rights as a “de facto parent.”


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Justice Bobbe J. Bridge

“Today we hold that our common law recognizes the status of de facto parents and places them in parity with biological and adoptive parents in our state,” the court, led by Justice Bobbe J. Bridge, wrote in the 7-2 decision. “Neither the United States Supreme Court nor this court has ever held that ‘family’ or ‘parents’ are terms limited in their definition by a strict biological prerequisite.”

In 2002, Sue Ellen Carvin sued her former partner, Page Britain, alleging Britain, the girl’s biological mother, unfairly cut off access to the child.

According to AP, several years ago the two women decided to parent a child together, and Britain was artificially inseminated, giving birth in 1995. For the next several years, Carvin stayed home to raise the girl, who called her “Mama” and Britain “Mommy.”

A year and a half ago, the couple split up, with Britain marrying the biological father of her daughter.

While an appeals court found Carvin did not have rights under the state’s Uniform Parentage Act, she could seek status as a “de facto or psychological parent” by providing evidence of a parent-child relationship.

“We strongly urge trial courts in this and similar cases to consider the interests of children in dependency, parentage, visitation, custody and support proceedings,” the court wrote, and “to act on their behalf and represent their interests would be appropriate and in the interests of justice.”

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