Judge Leon Anthony Dever
A district court judge ruled against a lesbian woman seeking to attain legal standing as the mother of her former lover's child and, in the process, struck a blow for parental rights.
In 2006, Gena-Louise Edvalson entered into a "contract" with her lover, Jana Dickson, to co-parent her partner's newborn son. But after the relationship ended, Edvalson sued Dickson, who is now married to a man, demanding the mother honor the contract and grant her former partner parental standing in the boy's life.
Judge Leon Anthony Dever of Utah's Third District Court, however, voided the contract and dismissed the lawsuit, arguing "parents retain the fundamental right to exercise the primary control over the care and supervision of their children."
Frank D. Mylar, an attorney teamed with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal alliance defending religious liberty, sanctity of life, marriage and the family, represented Dickson and her 2-year-old boy.
"The fundamental rights of parents to raise children the way they see fit should not be threatened by the wishes and desires of a legal stranger," said Mylar in a statement. "The court correctly ruled that this little boy's right to his mother under state law is of far greater value than the wishes of someone who has no legal relationship to the child."
The judge's ruling came in spite of the "parenting plan" for co-guardianship that the two women had signed.
Mylar told WND the court's ruling on the contract causes the case to transcend from simply a dispute between a former lesbian and her ex-partner to a victory for constitutional parental rights.
"This case involved a private agreement that Edvalson would be elevated to the level of a parent," Mylar said. "But there are adoption, marriage, divorce and paternity laws that govern who has parental status. For someone just to say, 'I'm going to decide you're a parent, and that gives you constitutional rights over my child,' offends public policy."
Judge Dever used the same language in the decision, writing, "The Utah Supreme Court has held that contracts that offend public policy are void. ... Therefore, while people are generally free to bind themselves to any contract, those contracts which are contrary to public policy are illegal."
Mylar explained, "There has always been a legal concept that certain contracts are illegal and void, where no court will be party to enforcing such an agreement. If a person had a contract, for example, to conduct illegal activity, the contract is void. He or she shouldn't be held to it.
"Since both Utah law and the U.S. Constitution clearly protect the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit," Mylar told WND, "it stands that you can't just 'bargain away' those constitutionally protected parental rights, because to be able to do so is not in the best interest of the child."
In dismissing the lawsuit, the court ruled state public policy designed to protect the best interests of children trumps any such "agreements" that people make, especially when there are no allegations of abuse or neglect.
"A parent's fundamental right and responsibility to raise and care for her child cannot be bargained away or lost through contract," Mylar said in a statement. "A parent has a constitutional right, supported by Utah public policy, to determine what is best for her child as time and circumstances dictate."