FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | January 18, 2005
(San Francisco, CA, January 18, 2005) — The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed a friend-of-the-court brief today with the Washington State Supreme Court in a lesbian parenting case, In re Parentage of L.B., brought by the Northwest Women's Law Center.
The plaintiff, Sue Ellen Carvin, and her former partner Page Britain were in a committed relationship for 12 years. They had a child in 1995 and raised her together until they separated in 2001. During this time, Carvin was the child's primary caretaker. After their separation, Britain cut off all contact between Carvin and the child. When repeated efforts to work out a voluntary settlement failed, Carvin brought a lawsuit seeking custody or visitation.
In 2004, the Washington State Court of Appeals held that Carvin is entitled to seek parental rights based on her established parental relationship with the child. Britain appealed this decision to the Washington State Supreme Court.
NCLR's amicus brief urges the Supreme Court to uphold the appellate court's conclusion that Washington law protects the child's relationship with Carvin. Courts in many other states have held that the law must shelter children from the trauma of being separated from their parents, regardless of whether there is a biological connection between parent and child. The brief argues that a person who brings a child into the world through assisted reproduction and who subsequently functions as the child's parent should be recognized as a parent by the law. Furthermore, children should not be penalized or denied security and protection because they are born into less conventional settings-whether their parents are unmarried, they are born through assisted reproduction, or their parents are lesbian or gay.
"Losing a parent can be devastating to a child," said Shannon Minter, NCLR's Legal Director. "We urge the Washington Supreme Court to recognize, as the Court of Appeals did last year, that granting custody and visitation rights to non-biological parents is in the best interest of children, who develop deep emotional and psychological bonds with their parents-biological or not-which must be respected and protected by the law."
NCLR's brief, which was filed jointly with Lambda Legal, was filed with the assistance of Seattle attorney Jamie D. Pedersen of Preston Gates & Ellis LLP and is available at www.nclrights.org. For more information about the Northwest Women's Law Center, visit their web site at www.nwwlc.org.
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.