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Legislation & Policy

Surrogacy360.org Advisory Committee

NCLR is a member of the Advisory Committee for Surrogacy360, which seeks to provide acurate information for intended parents seeking to use surrogacy internationally in an ethical manner. NCLR does not generally recommend that U.S. parents engage in surrogacy arrangements outside of the United States because of the danger that children born through surrogacy may not be recognized as U.S. citizens and encourages parents to consult with experienced surrogacy and immigration attorneys in the U.S. before considering surrogacy abroad.

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Legislation & Policy

Women’s Health Protection Act

The Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 2975/S. 1645) is federal legislation that would protect abortion access from the state-level bans and medically unnecessary restrictions that are currently reducing or eliminating access to care across the country. On February 12, 2020, the House Committee on Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on WHPA. NCLR led the drafting and submission of testimony on behalf of numerous LGBTQ organizations in support of the bill.

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Legislation & Policy

EACH Woman Act

Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Diana DeGette, (D-CO), and U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth, (D-IL), Kamala Harris, (D-CA), Mazie Hirono, (D-HI), and Patty Murray (D-WA), introduced the EACH Woman Act (HR 1692 and S 758). This bill ensures coverage for abortion for every woman, however much she earns or however she is insured.

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Legislation & Policy

2018 Farm Bill Protecting Food Assistance

During the 2018 re-authorization of the Farm bill, House Republicans passed a version that made cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP aka “food stamps”). NCLR and other LGBTQ groups joined anti-hunger and poverty groups to fight the cuts. Congress ultimately passed a bipartisan farm bill, which was signed by President Trump, that protected SNAP.

According to 2017 data from the Center for American Progress, LGBTQ people and their families were 2.3 times more likely to participate in SNAP than were non-LGBTQ people, with 22.7% of their nationally-representative LGBTQ survey respondents reporting using SNAP, a statistically significant difference when compared to non-LGBTQ respondents. Among LGBTQ people with a disability, 41.2% reported receiving SNAP.

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Legislation & Policy

FAMILY Act

The FAMILY Act would establish a national paid leave insurance program. Specifically, it would provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of partial income to address their own serious health condition, including pregnancy or childbirth; to deal with the serious health condition of a parent, spouse, domestic partner or child; to care for a new child; and/or specific military care-giving and leave purposes.

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Legislation & Policy

New York Parenting Legislation

Beginning February 15, 2021, NY will allow parents to conceive children using surrogacy while protecting the rigthts of people acting as surrogates and provide important new protections to parents conceiving through assisted reproduction. Prior to this legislation, New York state had few laws protecting LGBTQ parents. In particular, NY made surrogacy illegal, and unmarried parents could have children through assisted reproductions and be recognized unless they did an adoption. The Child-Parent Security Act modernizes New York parenting laws by recognizing that sperm and egg donors are not parents; recognizing that intended parents using assisted reproduction are parents, including single parents and unmarried couples; allowing intended parents to become parents through surrogacy and recognizing that persons acting as surrogates are not parents. The law also provides some of the strongest protections for the rights of people acting as surrogates in the country. Finally, the law also allows intended parents using assisted reproduction to obtain documentation proving they are a parent for free by filling out forms available at every hospital by expanding the Acknowledgement of Paternity process, which is currently only open to unmarried genetic fathers.

NCLR is proud to have participated heavily in drafting portions of the legislation and advocating in particular for stronger protections for low-income parents, unmarried and single parents, and persons acting as surrogates. NCLR is a member of the Modern Families Coalition advancing the bill.

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Legislation & Policy

Uniform Parentage Act of 2017

The Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) is a uniform law that states may enact. There have been several versions of the UPA, but until 2017, it used gendered language and did not address same-sex parents directly. The UPA of 2017 fully protects both married and unmarried same-sex couples, and includes many important provisions protecting LGBTQ parents, including provisions addressing children with multiple parents, parents using at-home insemination, surrogacy, and comprehensive assisted reproduction protections. It also provides protections for low-income parents, including protections for parents using at-home insemination, and access to a free system to establish parental rights available at every hospital in states that adopt the UPA.

NCLR participated in the drafting committee for the UPA of 2017 as an Observer, advocating for full protections for LGBTQ parents, including low-income parents.

As of January 2020 the UPA of 2017 has been enacted in California, Vermont, and Washington, and legislation is pending in Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania.

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Legislation & Policy

California Uniform Parentage Act

California law has long provided important protections for many LGBTQ parents, but many parents and their children were still excluded from protections. California adopted key portions of the Uniform Parentage Act of 2017, particularly those provisions protecting low-income families in AB 2684 (2018). Some provisions of this law went into effect in 2019. On January 1, 2020, provisions went into effect allowing parents of children using assisted reproduction to obtain a free document protecting their parental rights at any hospital after giving birth called a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage, and requiring gamete banks and clinics to allow gamete donors a process to agree to have their identity released to children conceived with their gametes at age 18.

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Legislation & Policy

Uniform Nonparent Custody and Visitation Act

NCLR has long focused on protecting the parental relationships between LGBTQ parents and their children and has established many rights for families across the country through both case law and legislation. NCLR participated as an Observer in the Uniform Law Commission’s committee to draft a Uniform Nonparent Custody Act to ensure that the rights of LGBTQ parents were adequately protected in this Act.

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Cases & Advocacy

Dvash-Banks v. Pompeo Amicus

Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks are a married same-sex couple who had twins through surrogacy in Canada, where they live. Each of them is the genetic father of one of the twins, but both fathers are legally-recognized as parents of the twins. Elad is an Israeli citizen and Andrew is a U.S. and Canadian dual citizen. The U.S. Consulate refused to recognize both twins as U.S. citizens because one child is not genetically tied to Andrew.

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Cases & Advocacy

June Medical Services v. Russo Amicus

On December 2, 2019, NCLR filed an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court. The case involves a challenge to a law in Louisiana that would force all but one abortion clinic in that state to close, a law that is virtually identical to one in Texas that the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional just three years ago in the landmark case <em>Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt</em>.

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Cases & Advocacy

New York v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Other Lawsuits Challenging the “Denial of Care” Rule Amicus

In 2019, NCLR filed four amicus briefs in eight federal lawsuits challenging a regulation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services called “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care.” The Trump Administration’s regulation, more aptly referred to as the “denial of care” rule, would allow health care professionals to deny certain medical treatments or services to patients based on the provider’s own religious or moral beliefs.

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Cases & Advocacy

Title X Gag Rule Cases Amicus

In 2019, NCLR and other LGBTQ organizations filed briefs in multiple challenges to the Trump administration’s domestic “gag rule.” The cases concern a set of regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services that require clinics that provide the full range of reproductive health care – family planning and abortion – to create complete physical and financial separation between abortion and family planning services.

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Cases & Advocacy

In the Interest of A.E.

C.W. and M.N. were a married same-sex couple who decided to conceive a child using an anonymous sperm donor. Unfortunately, the couple separated during the pregnancy, but C.W. was present when their baby, A.E. was born, and was involved in A.E.’s care and support until M.N. stopped allowing her to see the baby. Even though Texas recognizes that different-sex spouses who conceive using a sperm donor are parents, the court refused to recognize C.W. as a parent.

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Cases & Advocacy

K.M.M. v. K.E.W.

Kathleen and Kate were a same-sex couple who conceived a child together through assisted reproduction. Kate gave birth to their child, who they raised together until the couple broke up when then child was almost three years old. Because Kate and Kathleen were unmarried and Kathleen did not adopt their child, Kathleen sought visitation as a so-called “third party” under Missouri law.

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Cases & Advocacy

Torrez v. Bombard

Rhonda Bombard and Sandra Torrez were a same-sex couple who had two children through assisted reproduction. Rhonda gave birth to the children, and the couple raised their children together for seven years. Rhonda then secretly moved the children to New York and cut off contact with Sandra. An Arizona trial court ordered that Sandra be given visitation with the child, but Rhonda refused to follow the order and appealed.

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Cases & Advocacy

Turner v. Steiner (Oakley)

Heather Turner and Liza Oakley were a married same-sex couple who had a child using assisted reproduction. Heather gave birth to the child and both parents were listed on the birth certificate. Heather and Liza raised the baby together, with Liza staying as the primary caregiver until they broke up the following year. In their divorce, Heather argued that Liza was not a parent.

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Cases & Advocacy

Pavan v. Smith

The Arkansas Department of Health’s refusal to issue birth certificates naming both parents in a same-sex marriage violated the clear ruling of the United States Supreme Court in its 2015 marriage equality decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, which requires states to treat the marriages of same-sex couples the same as other couples’ marriages for all purposes under the law. NCLR petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2017 overturned the decision of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

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Cases & Advocacy

Chin v. Armstrong

Florida law requires the Office of Vital Statistics to list a birth mother’s husband on the child’s birth certificate. After Florida gained marriage equality on January 6, 2015, the state was obligated to start providing same-sex spouses with all the same rights given to different-sex spouses. Despite repeated requests, the Florida Office of Vital Statistics refused to recognize same-sex spouses on birth certificates.

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Cases & Advocacy

McLaughlin v. McLaughlin

Suzan McLaughlin and Kimberly McLaughlin were a married lesbian couple who had a child using artificial insemination with an anonymous donor in 2011. The parties separated in 2013 and Kimberly stopped allowing Suzan to see their child. In 2017, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Suzan is a legal parent and in 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Arizona Supreme Court decision to stand.

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Cases & Advocacy

E.L. v. V.L.

E.L. and V.L. are two women who were in a long term relationship and had three children through donor insemination. The non-biological mother, V.L., adopted the children in Georgia. When the parents later broke up, the biological mother, E.L., kept V.L. from seeing the children. V.L. sought visitation in Alabama, where the family lives. E.L. opposed her request, arguing that the Georgia adoption was invalid in Alabama.

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Cases & Advocacy

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Amicus

On January 4, 2016, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and a coalition of 13 other LGBT, racial justice, and health equity organizations filed an amicus brief in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down draconian restrictions on abortion providers enacted by the State of Texas in 2013 which, if upheld, would lead to the closing of most abortion clinics in the state.

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Legislation & Policy

California Assembly Bill 960

On October 10, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that updates the state’s assisted reproduction laws to ensure that all families are equally protected under the law.

Authored by Assemblymember David Chiu, Assembly Bill 960 updates current assisted reproduction laws in three ways: first, unmarried couples using assisted reproduction to become parents will be recognized as such on the same terms as married parents from the moment their child is born; second, it removes the requirement that a doctor or sperm bank must be involved when using assisted reproduction in order to ensure that the donor is not a parent; and finally, AB 960 provides clear direction for how egg donors should be treated under California law.

AB 960, which went into effect on January 1, 2016, was co-sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California, and Our Family Coalition.

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Cases & Advocacy

McGaw v. McGaw

Melissa and Angela McGaw are two women who were in a long term relationship and had twins through donor insemination. The couple chose the sperm donor together and parented the children together for more than nine years. After the parents later broke up, the biological mother, Angela, kept Melissa from seeing the children. Melissa sought custody of the children in Missouri, where the family lives, and was denied. Melissa appealed the denial.

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Cases & Advocacy

Stormans v. Selecky Amicus

In 2007, The Washington State Board of Pharmacy began requiring that pharmacists provide patients with prescribed medications if those medications are in stock. Additionally, pursuant to a long-standing rule governing which medications a pharmacy should have on its shelves, pharmacies would have to begin stocking Plan B, a prescription contraceptive. A pharmacy and two pharmacists sued the Washington State Board of Pharmacy alleging that its rules violated their religious liberty.

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Cases & Advocacy

Frazier v. Goudschaal Amicus

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 co-parented the children for a period of time after separation, but then Kelly cut off contact between Marci and the children.

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Legislation & Policy

Equal Access to Fertility

California fertility service providers are permitted to offer people seeking to conceive using a known sperm donor access to certain fertility services on the same terms as different-sex couples under Assembly Bill 2356 (2012), which went into effect January 1, 2013. This bill was authored by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner and co-sponsored by Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Increasingly, women in same-sex couples, transgender people, and single women are asking trusted friends to act as sperm donors in order to conceive a child. California was the first state to legally recognize that people may use known donors (not just anonymous sperm donors) to conceive a child.

However, people using known donors could not access the same fertility services as women in different-sex relationships. Different-sex couples can have insemination services using fresh sperm. Known donors’ sperm must typically be frozen and quarantined for six months. Insemination using fresh sperm is more effective and less costly.

AB 2356 allows providers to provide insemination services using fresh (unfrozen) sperm to people using known donors. Providers are not required to offer this service, but this law clarifies that they may offer it.

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Cases & Advocacy

Atala Riffo v. Chile Amicus

On May 31, 2004, a Chilean Court ordered Karen Atala Riffo, herself a judge in Chile, to relinquish custody of her three children to her estranged husband because she is a lesbian and living with her female partner. The Supreme Court of Chile based its decision on the long-discredited and unsupportable notion that being raised by lesbian parents is harmful for children. With no legal recourse left in Chile, Ms. Atala took her case to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHCHR) in Washington, D.C.

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Legislation & Policy

Protecting Parent-Child Relationships

AB 1349 (2011) ensured that California courts would be able to determine who a child’s parents are in cases where a child has both a non-biological parent and a biological father who has signed a voluntary declaration of paternity.

This law fixed a problem caused by an earlier case ruling that courts could not recognize a non-biological parent who had raised the child if another man signed a voluntary declaration of paternity, even if the man who signed the declaration had no relationship with the child and no intention of raising the child.

Before AB 1349, children with non-biological parents were vulnerable to losing the parent they had always known. For example, when a same-sex or different-sex couple used a sperm donor to conceive a child, if the couple later broke up and the sperm donor and the biological mother signed a declaration of paternity, the non-biological parent could not be legally recognized as a parent.

Under this new California law, a man cannot cut off the rights of a non-biological parent by signing a voluntary declaration of paternity. This declaration is only valid if it is also signed by anyone who is presumed to be a parent under California law.

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Cases & Advocacy

Florida Department of Children and Families v. M.J.H. Amicus

V.A., a lesbian who lives in Florida with her partner, has been raising a baby boy, E.L.A., since nine days after he was born. After Florida’s Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) terminated the parental rights of E.L.A.’s birth mother, V.A. applied to adopt E.L.A. DCF withheld its consent to the adoption solely on the grounds that V.A. is a lesbian, because Florida law prohibits “homosexuals” from adopting.

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Cases & Advocacy

Debra H. v. Janice R. Amicus

Debra H. and Janice R. were a same-sex couple living in New York who entered a Vermont civil union. After Janice gave birth to a child conceived through alternative insemination and the couple separated, Debra continued to visit the child regularly until Janice cut off contact when the child was four-and-a-half years old.

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Cases & Advocacy

Smith v. Quale

Kim Smith and Maggie Quale had twins, using a friend’s boyfriend as a sperm donor, and raised them together for approximately six months before breaking up. After the break-up, Maggie severely limited contact between Kim and the twins. Kim then filed a parentage action in Santa Cruz County family court, asserting her parental rights and requesting joint custody. In 2010, Kim and Maggie were able to settle their case, in a resolution that recognizes both women as the legal parents of their twins.

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Cases & Advocacy

Embry v. Ryan

Lara Embry (L.E.) and Kimberly Ryan (K.R.) are a female couple who had two children together in Washington. Each partner gave birth to one child, and each adopted her non-biological child through a second-parent adoption in Washington. The couple moved to Florida, and their relationship ended several years later. They entered into an agreement and successfully shared equal custody and visitation with both children until K.R. broke the agreement and refused contact between the children.

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Cases & Advocacy

In re J.D.F. Amicus

T.L. and D.F., a lesbian couple, had a child together and entered into a court-approved joint custody agreement. Several years later, T.L. and D.F. separated and agreed to share custody. But in 2004, Ohio’s anti-LGBTQ constitutional amendment excluding same-sex couples from marriage was passed. D.F. began to prevent T.L. from seeing their child, arguing that the amendment invalidated their shared custody order.

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Cases & Advocacy

Johnson v. SooHoo

Marilyn Johnson and Nancy SooHoo raised two children together while living in Minnesota. When the couple broke up, Johnson unilaterally cut off contact between SooHoo and the children. The Minnesota Supreme Court held in 2007 that SooHoo had a parent-child relationship with the children, and that it was in the children’s best interest to have visitation with SooHoo. In 2008, Johnson moved the children to Iowa and later filed a petition in Iowa in an attempt to end SooHoo’s visitation with the children.

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Cases & Advocacy

Benitez v. North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group Amicus

Guadalupe “Lupita” Benitez was denied infertility treatment by her Southern California healthcare providers because she is a lesbian. The trial court rejected the doctors’ claim that they do not have to follow California’s anti-discrimination law because they have religious objections to serving lesbian patients.

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Cases & Advocacy

Margaret K. v. Janice M. Amicus

Margaret K. and Janice M. adopted a daughter during their committed relationship of 17 years. Because they adopted their daughter from India, which does not allow unmarried couples to adopt, only Janice adopted the child, but she and Margaret raised their daughter together. When their daughter was 7, Margaret and Janice separated and Janice refused to allow Margaret to see their daughter.

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Cases & Advocacy

Application of A.W.

L.W. and K.R. raised their child, A.W., together from the time that K.R. gave birth to him. After the couple split up, L.W. became the child’s sole caregiver. L.W. obtained a parentage judgment from a California court establishing that she is A.W.’s legal parent. L.W. is disabled and receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. A.W.’s application was initially denied because the Administration refused to recognize L.W. as his parent.

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Cases & Advocacy

B.F. v. T.D.

B.F. and T.D., a lesbian couple, were in a committed relationship for seven years. When their attempts to get pregnant were unsuccessful, the couple decided to adopt. Because the availability of second parent adoptions is unclear in Kentucky, only T.D. adopted the child. For the next six years, the couple raised their child together. After the couple separated, however, T.D. cut off all contact between B.F. and the child, forcing B.F. to file for visitation.

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Cases & Advocacy

Angela G. v. D.W.

Angela G. and D.W., a lesbian couple, had a child together in 1998. After they separated, D.W. arbitrarily cut off all contact between Angela and the child, forcing Angela to file for custody. The trial court held that Angela was not a parent and had no right to any contact with the child. In June 2005, the California Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision and held that Angela is a parent and has the right to seek custody.

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Cases & Advocacy

Jones v. Barlow

Keri Jones and Cheryl Barlow had a child together in Utah using alternative insemination. After they separated, Barlow tried to keep Jones from having any contact with their child. In 2004, a Utah trial court granted Jones visitation. Barlow, represented by an anti-gay legal organization, appealed this decision to the Utah Supreme Court. In a shocking decision, the Utah Supreme Court reversed the trial court decision and abolished protections for all children with non-biological parents.

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Cases & Advocacy

Tina B. v. Paul S. Amicus

Tina B. and Christine S., a lesbian couple, lived together for many years and had two children together. When Christine died, Christine’s parents tried to obtain custody of one of the children, over Tina’s strong objection. The West Virginia Supreme Court awarded Tina B. custody of the child. NCLR and Lambda Legal filed an amicus brief supporting Tina, who was represented by James Wilson Douglas of Sutton, West Virginia.

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Cases & Advocacy

In re Marriage of S.

NCLR assisted S., a transgender father in Chicago. S. has lived his entire adult life as a male and has undergone medical treatment for sex-reassignment. He also had his birth certificate changed to reflect his male gender. S. married in 1985. He and his wife had a child together in 1992 through alternative insemination. When S. filed for divorce in 1998, his wife counter-petitioned to have their marriage declared void and to terminate S.’s parental rights.

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Cases & Advocacy

Kristine H. v. Lisa R. Amicus

Kristine H. and Lisa R. had a child together using alternative insemination. Before the child was born, they petitioned a court to issue an order declaring both women to be the child’s legal parents. When the couple separated a few years later, however, Kristine challenged Lisa’s parental status and tried to prevent her from having any right to custody or visitation.

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Cases & Advocacy

Kantaras v. Kantaras

In June 2005, love, patience, and persistence, combined with a visionary judge and a little help from Dr. Phil, led to an historic settlement agreement between NCLR client Michael Kantaras and his former wife. Michael, a transsexual father, has been fighting for almost seven years to retain his parental rights to his two children, aged 16 and 13.

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