Court Recognizes Same-Sex Parents Have Parental Rights

Photo of mother and daughter hitting 'high five'
Photo of mother and daughter hitting 'high five'
(stock photo: Any Lane from Pexels)

Yesterday, the Michigan Court of Appeals recognized two unmarried women as parents where one parent is a genetic parent and the other parent gave birth.

LaNesha Matthews and Kyresha LeFever were a same-sex couple who had twins together using assisted reproduction. The children were conceived through in vitro fertilization using Kyresha’s eggs, and LaNesha gave birth. Last year, a trial court ruled LaNesha is a surrogate with no parental rights because she is not a genetic parent, even though she always intended to be a mother and parented the children since they were born seven years ago.

After the parents broke up, they shared custody for several years before going to court after a dispute. The trial court ruled that LaNesha was not a parent, removed LaNesha from the birth certificates, prevented her from participating in their educational or medical decision-making, and allowed her only limited visitation as an unrelated “third party.”

On April 1, 2021, the Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the trial court’s ruling, finding that LaNesha and Kyresha are both equal parents to their children. One of the judges wrote an additional opinion explaining that all parents and their children have a constitutional right to be recognized, regardless of birth or genetics.

“We are grateful that our client and her children are once again recognized as a family,” said NCLR Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura. “We know that families are formed in many ways. Recognizing genetics as the only basis for parent-child relationships leaves out many families and harms children by separating them from their parents.”

NCLR represented LaNesha on appeal before the Michigan Court of Appeals along with her trial counsel Regina Jemison.

(via press release from NCLR)

Mississippi Supreme Court Acknowledges Parental Rights For Non-Biological Mother

A Mississippi woman has regained her parental rights to the child born during her marriage to her ex-wife in a new ruling by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

From the AP:

Mississippi’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a woman has parental rights to a 6-year-old boy born to her ex-wife when the two were married, in a case watched by gay rights activists and groups aiding in vitro fertilization.

Christina “Chris” Strickland brought the appeal, challenging a lower court decision that an anonymous sperm donor still had parental rights and that Strickland did not. Strickland ultimately hopes to win 50-50 custody of Zayden Strickland, who bears her last name and was born by Kimberly Day through artificial means when Day and Strickland were married.

All nine state Supreme Court justices found problems with the original, lower court ruling by Rankin County Chancery Judge John Grant III.

It’s difficult to rationalize how a judge gives an anonymous donor (who is unknown to the child and probably always will be) equal rights to a birth mother but cuts out the other woman who has been a mother to the child since birth.

If Strickland had been a man in a heterosexual marriage that had a child through use of an anonymous sperm donor, I’m certain he would have still been treated like the father he was and been given parental rights without question.

Chief Justice William Waller Jr. acknowledged the Mississippi legislature needed to clarify state law:

“The Legislature should speak directly to the recognition of the legal status of children born during a marriage as the result of assisted reproductive technology,” Waller wrote.