Florida Appeals Court To Hear Visitation Dispute Between Same-Sex Parents

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Tuesday, May 11: Lambda will argue on behalf of non-biological mother
May 7, 1999

(ATLANTA, May 7, 1999) -- An increasingly common type of family dispute will reach a Florida appeals court with a visitation case concerning same-sex parents and the four-year-old girl they raised together until their relationship ended, said Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

At 10 a.m., Tuesday, May 11, in Kazmierazak v. Query, Lambda Staff Attorney Stephen Scarborough will argue before the Fourth District Court of Appeal of Florida on behalf of Penny Kazmierazak, who has been forbidden to see her daughter Zoey because her ties to the child are emotional, not biological.

Said Scarborough before Tuesday's argument, "Penny was the primary caretaker of her daughter until her ex- partner first limited, and then cut off their relationship. She was, in every respect, Zoey's mother. At the very least she deserves a chance to show the court that she is a psychological parent to Zoey, and to have the court consider her request for visits with her daughter."

This case, like In re Matter of Visitation with C.B.L., in which a Lambda attorney also will argue for a non- biological mother on Tuesday before the Illinois appeals court in Chicago, involves a non-traditional family experiencing traditional disagreements about child visitation arrangements that separating parents suffer.

But, because one mother has emotional, not biological, ties to the child, different legal issues are raised. In each case, Lambda seeks a hearing to consider the best interests of the child involved, arguing that courts must recognize that a parent may have a psychological, parental relationship to a child without biological or adoptive ties.

In Kazmierazak's case, she and her former partner, Pamela Query, had been in a committed relationship for years when they planned to have a child together. When the child, Zoey, was born in 1993, Penny was present in the delivery room and was listed on the birth certificate as a parent. More importantly, she was Zoey's primary caretaker, including while Pamela cared for an ailing relative.

Banned from adoption under Florida's anti-gay law, the couple tried to protect their daughter's relationships with both mothers by executing a "delegation of parental authority" to Penny. But when the couple split up in 1997, Pamela began restricting Penny's contact with Zoey, and in the spring of 1998, she cut off contact altogether.

When Penny filed a petition for custody of the child, a circuit court judge ruled that she had no standing to seek custody or even visitation refusing even to reach the question whether Penny and Zoey had a mother-daughter relationship. Among other arguments, Lambda will contend on appeal that Penny is Zoey's "psychological mother," deserving of at least an opportunity to present the court with evidence about their familial bond.

Said Scarborough, "Biology cannot erase Penny's important relationship with her daughter. Motherhood means so much more than that."

WHAT: Oral argument in Kazmierazak v. Query WHO: Lambda Staff Attorney Stephen Scarborough WHERE: Fourth District Court of Appeal of Florida, 1525 West Palm Lakes Boulevard, West Palm Beach WHEN: 10 a.m. ET, Tuesday, May 11

(Kazmierazak v. Query, No. 98-02854)

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Contact: Stephen Scarborough 404-897-1880 x23; Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x230, 888-987-1984 (pager)


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