Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Case Summary & History

Family & Relationships

Case: Charisma R. v. Kristina S.

STATUS: Victory, California

Charisma R. and Kristina S. were in a committed relationship for 6 years. They decided to have children together, and Kristina gave birth to their child in 2003. They started a baby journal and sent out a joint birth announcement. Charisma and Kristina cared for their child together, and Charisma provided the primary care after Kristina returned to work. When their child was only a few months old, Kristina abruptly left their shared home and refused to allow Charisma to have any contact with their baby.

Charisma could not afford an attorney, so she filed a petition seeking parental rights on her own in 2004. The Family Court wrongly held that she was not a legal parent. NCLR and cooperating attorney Deborah Wald represented Charisma on appeal, and the appeals court held that under a recent decision by the California Supreme Court, a same- sex partner of a biological mother can be a legal parent under California law.

In 2006, the Family Court held that Charisma is a legal parent and awarded her visitation. Charisma and her daughter began to reunify and rebuild their relationship in 2008 with the aid of a therapist. Kristina, who is represented by Liberty Counsel, the legal arm of Jerry Falwell’s anti-gay organization, appealed the trial court’s decision, which was upheld by the California Court of Appeal. Kristina asked the California Supreme Court to review the decision, which they declined to do, and then asked the United States Supreme Court to review the decision. The U.S. Supreme Court denied her petition on Feb. 22, 2010.

Charisma is represented pro bono by Amanda List and Deborah Wald, with assistance from NCLR. Amy Rose of Squire Sanders & Dempsey, LLP represented Charisma in the current appeal. Charisma has been previously represented by Algera Tucker and Rachel Catt.

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