FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | November 3, 2005
(San Francisco, CA, November 3, 2005) — The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) today praised the Washington Supreme Court decision in In re Parentage of L.B., which held that a woman who agrees to have a child with her same-sex partner has all the rights and responsibilities of a legal parent and is entitled to seek custody of the child on an equal footing with her former partner. With its landmark decision, the Washington Supreme Court has now become the second state supreme court, following California earlier this year, to hold that same-sex couples who have and raise children together are both legally responsible as parents. NCLR filed an amicus brief in the Washington case, urging the Court to hold that both women were legal parents.
Sue Ellen Carvin and her former partner Page Britain were in a committed relationship for 12 years. They had a child together in 1995 and raised her together for 6 years, until the couple separated in 2001. Throughout that time, Carvin was the child's primary caretaker. After the couple separated, 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. The Washington Court of Appeals held that Carvin was entitled to seek parental rights such as custody or visitation based on her established parental relationship with the child. This holding was affirmed today by the Washington Supreme Court.
In its decision today, the Washington Supreme Court explained: "Reason and common sense support recognizing the existence of de facto parents and according them the rights and responsibilities which attach to parents in this state."
"This is a tremendous step forward towards achieving full protection for our families." said Courtney Joslin, NCLR Staff Attorney. "We are gratified that the Washington Supreme Court has ensured that these children are provided with the protections that they need and that they deserve."
Despite today's decision, it is important that same-sex couples continue to obtain second parent adoptions to ensure that their parental status is clearly established.
Carvin was represented by the Northwest Women's Law Center. NCLR filed a friend-of-the-court brief on her behalf along with COLAGE and Lambda Legal. NCLR's local counsel were Kristin Boraas, Laura Clinton, and Jamie D. Pedersen of Preston Gates & Ellis LLP.
Today's decision can be accessed at: http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/?fa=opinions.opindisp&docid=756261MAJ.
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.