FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | January 24, 2005
(San Francisco, CA, January 24, 2005) — The National Center for Lesbian Rights hailed an Illinois State Supreme Court ruling today that reversed a lower court's decision to remove a foster child from a stable foster placement with a same-sex couple and place him back with his grandparents, even though a court previously had found that the grandparents had physically abused him.
When Austin was nine months old, he was removed from the custody his grandparents after hospital workers suspected child abuse due to the discovery of a skull and leg fracture, as well as bruising. Shortly thereafter Austin was placed with Rosemary Fontaine and her same-sex partner.
An investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services determined that the allegations against the grandparents were supported, and this finding was affirmed on appeal. Despite this finding, however, two years after Austin was placed with Rosemary and Tammy, a trial court held that he should be removed from their home and placed back with his grandparents, even though all witnesses agreed that Rosemary was providing Austin with a loving and supportive environment. With the assistance of local counsel Richard A. Wilson, NCLR and Legal Services for Children filed an amicus brief in the case, In re Austin W., arguing that it was erroneous for the trial court to disregard the prior finding of abuse.
"We are relieved that the Illinois Supreme Court served the best interest of this child by leaving him in the custody of loving, supportive, stable parents where he is thriving," said Shannon Minter, NCLR's Legal Director. "The circuit court's decision to send this child back to those who abused him during infancy was based on bias alone and ignored the overwhelming evidence that his well-being is best served by remaining with Rosemary and her partner."
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.