Pennsylvania's Highest Court Rules Lesbian Mom Can Seek Visitation

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Court recognizes parental status of lesbian mom, same as any other parent
January 2, 2002

(NEW YORK, Wednesday, January 2, 2002) —The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court has affirmed a ruling that a lesbian mother who raised a child with her former partner may seek visitation despite the biological mother’s objection, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which argued the case, said Wednesday.

In a 5-2 ruling, the court recognized the lesbian mother’s legal standing as a parent in fact, applying the same rules that the court has applied to other families. The court said a lesbian or gay parent may seek visitation or custody of a child, even if there is no biological or legal tie, if she or he assumed a parental status and performed parental duties over time with the consent of the legal parent.

The parents in this case, identified by their initials to protect the privacy of the child, were in a long-term relationship and raised the child together for three years. After their breakup in 1996, L.R.M., the biological mother, refused to allow T.B. visits with their daughter, despite T.B.’s daily parental role in the child’s life.

“This child had a loving parent ripped from her life for no good reason,” said Patricia M. Logue, Lambda senior counsel, who represented T.B. and argued the case. “We are pleased that the court ruled in the best interests of the child, and that this mother has the chance to reunite with her daughter.”

In 2000, the Superior Court unanimously held that L.R.M. cannot claim that her biological ties to their daughter give her absolute rights to the child. Previously, in 1997 the Court of Common Pleas had determined T.B. had parental status and ordered visitation. The latest decision does not automatically grant visitation, but gives T.B. the chance to see her child again.

“This mother helped raise and care for her child for years,” said Kevin M. Cathcart, Lambda executive director. “Her love and commitment to her child transcends biology, and the court recognized what truly makes a family.”

Roger D. McGill of the firm of Smorto, Persio, Webb & McGill was co-counsel. Amicus briefs were submitted by the ACLU, the Support Center for Child Advocates, and 54 other organizations, including the National Association of Social Workers, the National Center for Youth Law, and the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights.

Lambda is the oldest and largest legal organization dedicated to the civil rights of lesbians, gay men and people with HIV and AIDS. With its national headquarters in New York, Lambda has regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta, and will open an office in Dallas this year.

(T.B. v. L.R.M., No. 62 WAP2000)

Contact:Pat Logue 312-663-4413 x 30
Amanda Scioscia 212-809-8585 x 241 888-987-1971


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