NCLR and Lambda Legal File Appeal on Behalf of Gay Dad In Maryland Custody Case; U.S. Supreme Court 2003 Privacy Ruling Renders Previous Custody Order Unconstitutional
(Annapolis, MD) — Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a brief today in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals seeking to remove a custody restriction on behalf of a gay father who is barred from living with his partner while raising his 12-year-old son.
Ulf Hedberg and his ex-wife, residents of Virginia at the time, separated when their son was four years old. For the next five-and-a-half years, the child lived with Hedberg and his partner, Blaise Delahoussaye, in a suburban Virginia home the couple purchased together. The home had a back yard and was near a good school. Together, the two men provided a stable loving home. After the boy’s mother moved to Florida, she petitioned for custody. A Virginia court issued an order giving Mr. Hedberg physical custody of the boy but requiring Mr. Delahoussaye to move out of the family’s home. In order to maintain two separate residences, the couple sold their house and moved into smaller apartments in Maryland. Though Delahoussaye visits his family as much as he can, the restriction keeps them all from living in the same home together.
“This child’s world was turned upside down all because a Virginia court issued a knee-jerk antigay custody restriction,” said Susan Sommer, Supervising Attorney at Lambda Legal. “He lost his home, his school, his park and most importantly the proximity of the caring adult who has helped raise him. No one wins with this arrangement, and it’s imperative that the court step in and put the child’s interests first.”
A trial court in Maryland denied Mr. Hedberg’s request to remove the restriction. In the appeal filed today, NCLR and Lambda Legal urge the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to remove the custody restriction because of the drastic decline in quality of life it has caused for the child, and also because it is unconstitutional. The Virginia court based its decision on that state’s sodomy law, which was struck down, along with 12 others nationwide, in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2003.
“Mr. Hedberg is a devoted parent who has done a tremendous job raising his son,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Mr. Delahoussaye always has been a positive influence in the child’s life. There is no reason that Mr. Hedberg should not be able to live with his partner of nearly ten years, and the trial court was wrong to let this harmful and unconstitutional situation stand.”
Though the child’s mother opposes letting Delahoussaye move back into the home, she answered “I don’t know” to numerous questions asking her if she had even a single concern about Hedberg and Delahoussaye living together with the child. Lambda Legal and NCLR argue that the Virginia order doesn’t benefit the child, and instead harms him. Attorneys for the mother will file a reply to today’s appeal before oral arguments are set.
Maryland attorney Susan Silber of Silber & Perlman in Takoma Park represented Mr. Hedberg before the trial court in Maryland and continues to serve as counsel with NCLR and Lambda on the appeal.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education, and public policy work. 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.