Health

Lesbian Mother Wins Parental Rights in Florida

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In any reasonable situation, one parent cannot simply take a child to a foreign country and deny visitation rights to the other parent. Gay and lesbian parents don’t always get the same rights as their same-sex counterparts, however, as was demonstrated in Florida when a trial court denied rights to a woman in exactly that situation.

But the Florida Supreme Court overturned this ruling on Thursday, granting parental rights to the mother left behind.

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The case involves two women, known only as DMT and TMH, who used assisted reproductive technology to have a baby. TMH had her egg fertilized and placed into DMH’s uterus.

When the couple broke up after an 11-year relationship, DMT headed to Australia with the child. When TMH petitioned the court for parental rights, she was denied because Florida laws do not recognize a same-sex partnership as a "commissioning couple."

The Florida Supreme Court disagreed, saying that the current statute is not constitutionally sound.

Justice Barbara Pariente wrote, "In reaching our conclusion, we rely on long-standing constitutional law that an unwed biological father has an inchoate interest that develops into a fundamental right to be a parent protected by the Florida and United States Constitutions when he demonstrates a commitment to raising the child by assuming parental responsibilities." 

Still, TMH only won the case with a majority of 4 to 3. Chief Justice Ricky Polston wrote for the dissenters, saying,  "Does this mean that a child could have a constitutional right to two mothers and a father (or two fathers), perhaps when a married, heterosexual couple agrees to and subsequently raises a child with the egg donor, an egg donor who is in a committed relationship with a man other than the genetic father?"

Although TMH’s victory is momentous for the gay-rights movement, her battle is not over yet. She must now deal with the local court system to establish visitation rights.

Sources: Orlando Weekly, Courthouse News