(San Francisco, CA, February 22, 2013)—Today, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that when a same-sex couple has a child together, both parents can be fully recognized as parents under Kansas state law. The court explained that Kansas parentage laws apply equally to women and non-biological parents, and that courts must consider the reality of who a child’s parents are in order to protect the interests of children. The court also ruled that an agreement to co-parent and share custody can be enforceable.
With this ruling, Kansas joins a number of other states in ruling that when two people bring a child into the world and then raise that child as co-parents, the law should treat both of them as the child’s parents, regardless of gender or biology. These courts have recognized that reality is that the children in these families exist, and the law cannot turn its back on that reality or on a child’s need for stability and a protected relationship with both parents. This ruling is significant not only for same-sex parents, but also for many kinds of families where non-biological parents are raising children.
Marci Frazier and Kelly Goudschaal were in a same-sex relationship and decided to have children together through insemination. Kelly was the birth mother for their two children, who they then raised for many years as co-parents. They gave the children hyphenated last names, and the two mothers signed a written agreement saying that they both intended to be parents and share custody of the children. Unfortunately, the relationship between Kelly and Marci broke down in 2008. They co-parented the children for a period of time after separation, but then Kelly cut off contact between Marci and the children.
After Marci went to court to try to see the children again, a Kansas trial court granted joint custody to the two women. Kelly appealed this order and argued that Marci was not a parent and had no right to seek custody. The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling and explained that both women could be legally recognized as parents under Kansas law.
“Today, the Kansas Supreme Court recognized that children with same-sex parents have the same need for stability and protection as children in any other family. We are grateful to the court for this thoughtful decision protecting the best interests of children in all families,” said Cathy Sakimura, NCLR Family Law Director.
“Today’s decision is important and ground breaking,” said Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “The court rightly found that the co-parenting agreement was not only legal, but that it served the best interest of the children.”
The National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri, and ACLU Foundation submitted an amicus brief in support of recognizing both mothers. Amicus briefs in support of the non-biological mother were also filed by the National Association of Social Workers, represented by Stephanie Goodenow, and Washburn University School of Law Children and Family Law Center.
Marci Frazier was represented by Dennis J. Stanchik and Valerie L. Moore.
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.Read Frazier v. Goudschaal.