A lesbian is demanding custody of a Christian woman’s daughter in a case that could strong-arm Florida into recognizing out-of-state adoptions by same-sex couples.
Lara Embry and her former lesbian partner, Kimberly Ryan, began a relationship while they lived in Seattle, Wash., and registered as domestic partners. Ryan had a daughter through artificial insemination on Feb. 21, 2000. A Washington court allowed Embry to adopt the baby and listed her as a second parent.
The couple moved to Sarasota, Fla., in August of 2001. Embry conceived her own daughter through artificial insemination and gave birth on Oct. 2, 2001.
Both women and their daughters moved back to Seattle so Embry could finish her doctoral studies at the University of Washington. While they lived in Seattle, Ryan became listed as a second parent to Embry’s child.
The lesbian couple returned to Sarasota in August 2002 and ended their relationship just two years later.
They informally rotated custody and visitation arrangements for two years following their break-up.
Ryan left her homosexual lifestyle, became a Christian and is engaged to marry a man. She grew concerned that the visits were not good for her 9-year-old daughter and discontinued the plans with Embry.
Embry demanded that a Florida court enforce the Washington adoption decree and allow her to continue visiting Ryan’s daughter.
But the court dismissed her petition, saying that allowing Embry to have parental rights would violate Florida Statute 63.042 prohibiting homosexual adoption, the state’s Defense of Marriage Act and court precedent.
Now Embry has taken her case to the Second District Court of Appeal in Florida, arguing that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires the state to give her parental rights.
Liberty Counsel is representing Ryan. Harry Mihet, the group’s senior litigation counsel, argued before the court today. Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University School of Law, said the state should be allowed to abide by its current guidelines and consider the best interests of the child.
“Florida has the authority to establish its own policy regarding marriage and the definition of family,” he said in a statement. “Florida protects its children by preferring they be placed in an optimal environment with a mom and a dad.”
A ruling in Embry’s favor could mean homosexual couples with out-of-state adoptions could have their adoptions recognized in Florida, according to the group. Liberty Counsel argues that if Embry prevails, other state laws and practices could be used to change Florida law.
“The law of the state has been firmly established and affirmed last year by the passage of a state constitutional marriage amendment,” Staver said. “The state of Washington cannot rewrite Florida adoption law and commandeer the state to enforce its contrary policy.”