Illinois Appeals Court Gets Its First Visitation Dispute Between Two Mothers

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

(CHICAGO, May 7, 1999) — An increasingly common type of family dispute will reach an Illinois appeals court with a visitation case concerning same-sex parents and the five-year-old girl they raised together until they broke up, said Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

At 11 a.m., Tuesday, May 11, Lambda Staff Attorney Heather C. Sawyer will argue In re Matter of Visitation with C.B.L. Lambda represents "Amanda," the non-biological mother seeking her day in court to show it is in the child's best interests for their relationship to be maintained. Amanda, who has helped to raise the child "Cathy" since her birth, was the family's sole financial support during much of that time.

Said Sawyer, "We are urging the appeals court not to be blinded by biology and recognize the important relationship between Amanda and her daughter Cathy, and permit a hearing to determine what is best for child." (The parties are using pseudonyms to protect the child's privacy.)

Sawyer added, "Amanda is every bit a mother to Cathy. Amanda rocked her daughter at night, fed, bathed, and clothed her, and paid all the family's bills. She held Cathy when she cried and shared her joy with her first words and steps. Biology did not matter then and it should not matter now."

This case, which is similar to Kazmierazak v. Query, a case Lambda also will argue on Tuesday before the Florida appeals court in West Palm Beach, involves a non-traditional family experiencing traditional disagreements about child visitation arrangements that separating parents suffer.

But, because one of the mothers has emotional, not biological, ties to the child, different legal issues are raised. In each case, Lambda appealed after a trial court ruled that the non-biological mother has no standing to seek visitation with her child over the objection of her former lesbian partner, refusing even to allow a hearing to consider what is best for the child.

Sawyer added, "In Illinois, case law has established that heterosexual parents like Amanda should be allowed to seek visitation. The same principles also apply to protect the children of lesbian and gay parents seeking visitation after a separation."

Cathy's parents agreed together to have and raise a child during a nine-year relationship. The biological mother, Helen, ended the relationship but allowed visitation and accepted child support for a long period. She then unilaterally ended Amanda's contact with her daughter.

"In these cases, we are talking about relationships originally established with the consent and encouragement of the biological parent. That parent should not then try to exploit the law's failure to treat lesbian and gay families appropriately in order to cut off contact between children and their non-biological parent," Sawyer said.

Lambda's co-counsel is Chicago attorney Rosemary Mulryan.

WHAT: Oral argument in In re Matter of Visitation with C.B.L.
WHO: Lambda Staff Attorney Heather C. Sawyer
WHERE: Illinois Appellate Court, 160 N. LaSalle, 14th Floor., Chicago
WHEN: 11 a.m. CT, Tuesday, May 11

The case is In re Matter of Visitation with C.B.L., No. 98-2011


Contact: Heather C. Sawyer 312-663-4413 x22; Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x230, 888-987-1984


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