FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | July 1, 2004
(San Francisco, CA, July 1, 2004) — The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) today praised the Colorado Court of Appeals' decision holding that a lesbian co-parent can seek custody or visitation with a child that she jointly raised with her former partner.
Elsey Maxwell McLeod and her former partner Cheryl Ann Clark were in a committed relationship for 11 years. McLeod and Clark decided to have a child together. Clark adopted a baby girl from China with the intention that both Clark and McLeod would parent her. The couple changed the child's name to reflect both of their surnames and the child's medical and school records also reflect that both Clark and McLeod are her parents. Approximately 6 years after the child was adopted, Clark and McLeod ended their relationship. After the couple separated, Clark argued that that McLeod had no legal right to visitation or care of their daughter.
In its decision, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's order giving both Clark and McLeod equal parenting rights. The court explained that McLeod was entitled to seek parenting rights based on her established parental relationship with the child.
"We are extremely pleased that the Court of Appeal recognized the importance of protecting children's relationships with both of the people who have functioned as their parents," said Courtney Joslin, staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "It is outrageous that loving, devoted parents have to fight so hard for their right even to appear in court and ask for visitation with their own children."
McLeod is represented by Gina B. Weitzenkorn of Mills & Weitzenkorn. In addition to the brief filed by NCLR, amicus briefs were also filed by the Colorado Legal Initiative Project and the ACLU of Colorado. NCLR's local counsel is Kimberly R. Willoughby of the Willoughby Law Firm.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.