Lesbian mum wins visitation rights

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An Ohio judge ruled this week that the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage cannot be used by a woman to deny her ex partner visitation rights to a child they raised together.

The amendment, known as Issue 1, in addition to banning same-sex marriage, says the state “and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognise a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.”

Denise Fairchild wanted Franklin County Domestic Relations Court to cancel Therese Leach’s right to visit Fairchild’s 9-year-old son. Ms Fairchild was artificially inseminated when she and Ms Leach were together.

Last week, Judge Carole Squire signed Magistrate Darrolyn Krippel’s earlier decision that the constitutional amendment, approved by voters in November 2004, does not prohibit custody rights between a child and a non-parent or between two unmarried people.

“It’s a great decision,” Camilla Taylor, Leach’s Chicago-based lawyer, told the Columbus Dispatch. “It holds that you cannot use the constitutional amendment as a weapon to alter the relationship between a child and a cherished adult.”

Fairchild’s Columbus lawyer, Keith Golden, argued that Ms Leach was not considered a parent by Ohio law. She did not give birth to the child, did not adopt him and the union between her and Fairchild was not considered a marriage. “Denise was disappointed, but we’re continuing with our position and we’re going to the next level,” Golden said to The Dispatch.

He said he plans to file an objection to the magistrate’s decision and wants a judge to review the case.

It shows “you can’t use a constitutional amendment as a weapon to attack a cherished relationship between a child and an adult that that child considers a parent,” said Taylor, in an Associated Press article. “Therese raised that little boy since his birth, and he should be allowed to see her.”

At Ms Fairchild’s request, the Franklin County Domestic Relations Court gave Leach parenting rights in 2001, saying the women “shall be treated in the law as two equal parents of their minor child.”

They sought the agreement so Ms Leach could make medical decisions for the boy in Ms Fairchild’s absence.

Ms Fairchild said she intends to appeal. She said that she is aware she is trying to use an anti-gay law for her own ends and admitted she voted against the ballot issue.

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