FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | November 30, 2006
(Philadelphia, PA, November 30, 2006) — On November 29, 2006, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania upheld a lower court ruling awarding custody to a non-biological lesbian mother in a custody dispute with her former partner, the children's biological mother.
Patricia Jones and Ellen Boring had twin children together in the context of a long-term committed relationship. When the couple separated, Boring tried to cut off Jones' contact with the children. After hearing extensive evidence, a trial court awarded custody to Jones. Boring appealed, arguing that she automatically should be given custody because she is the birth mother. The appellate court rejected the argument that biology alone should determine custody, holding that the primary focus must always be on the best interests of the child.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights represented Jones, along with the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, Lambda Legal, and local counsel Maureen Gatto of Dorian, Goldstein, Wisniewski & Orchinik in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.
"Yesterday's decision affirms that once a parent has been granted legal parental rights, that individual is judged by the same standards as a biological parent," said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. "Most importantly, the Court affirmed that custody disputes involving children of same-sex parents must be based on the best interests of the child, just as they are in cases involving heterosexual parents.
The Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights Legal Director Lee Carpenter commented, "We are very pleased that the Supreme Court refused to hear this case. Judges in custody cases need to be able to put children's interests first, including children from nontraditional families. The Superior Court's decision was exactly right, and I'm sure the Supreme Court realized that."
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.