Ohio Court to Hear Lesbian Second-Parent Adoption Case

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Tuesday, November 10: Lambda argues for state's first such adoption
November 9, 1998

(CHICAGO, November 9, 1998) An Ohio appellate court is set to consider its first lesbian second-parent adoption case, which could provide better protections for an eight-year-old girl and eventually for children of many other lesbian and gay parents, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Monday.

On Tuesday, November 10, the Ohio Court of Appeals will hear arguments in In re: Adoption of Jane Doe. Patricia Logue, managing attorney of Lambda's Midwest Regional Office, will argue on behalf of the mothers, "Trish Smith" and "Marcia Jones."

"It's in their daughter's best interest for the Court to recognize that both Trish and Marcia have been mothers in every sense of the word," said Logue.

"The child will benefit from the added security that legal recognition of a parental relationship provides, including both mothers having full authority to make medical decisions and giving their daughter many other legal, financial, and health protections," she added. Trish, Marcia, and Jane Doe are the names the mothers and daughter are using in the case.

Second-parent adoptions allow a person to adopt the biological or adoptive children of his or her partner without terminating the first parent's legal status as a parent. Such adoptions are available to non-gay stepparents, and in an increasing number of states, to lesbian, gay, and other unmarried couples as well. In 1995, Lambda won similar second-parent adoption cases in appellate courts in Illinois and New York.

Trish and Marcia, who have been in a committed relationship since 1981, jointly planned to bring their daughter Jane into the world via alternative insemination. Responsibility for raising Jane, now 8, has been shared by both women since her birth.

In 1996, Trish and Marcia filed a petition to adopt and brought a declaratory judgment action in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas asking that Trish be able to adopt Jane while allowing Marcia, the biological mother, to remain a legal parent as well. A court-appointed representative for the child told the court that Jane would benefit from the adoption and her home appeared stable, but argued against the adoption because she thought the law did not allow it.

The trial court agreed with the representative and denied the requested relief, saying that the Ohio Adoption Act requires a termination of Marcia's parental status before Trish could adopt. Lambda's brief on the appeal argues that the court does have the power under many previously decided cases to grant a second-parent adoption without disturbing the ongoing parent-child relationship between Jane and Marcia.

"We hope the appeals court rules in our favor, so that children of lesbian and gay couples in Ohio can receive the same protections for their families that other children take for granted," said Logue. "The court can protect Jane's family, and we hope it does," she added.

Lambda's co-counsel in the appeal, Peter T. Cahoon of Buckingham, Doolittle and Burroughs, and Ohio attorney James B. Chapman, represented Trish and Marcia in the trial court. Susan Becker of Cleveland is counsel for amici National Association of Social Workers, American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry, Ohio Human Rights Bar Association, Ohio Psychological Association, and the Lesbian/Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland, who filed a brief in support of the adoption.

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Lambda is the nation's oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS. WHO: Patricia Logue, managing attorney, Midwest Regional Office, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, on behalf of Trish Smith and Marcia Jones in Smith's petition for second-parent adoption of Jane Doe

WHAT: Oral argument in Ohio's first lesbian second-parent adoption case

WHEN: 11 a.m., Tuesday, November 10

WHERE: Ohio Court of Appeals, 110 Central Plaza South (SE Corner of Market and Tuscawaras), Room 320, Canton, Ohio

(In re: Adoption of Jane Doe, No. 19017)

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Contact: Patricia Logue 312-663-4413; Peg Byron 212-809-8585, 888-987-1984 pager


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