Friday, 25 June 2010

In Wisconsin, Not All Parents Are Equal

In Wisconsin, adoption by same sex couples is not recognised. Gay men and lesbians may adopt, but only as individuals. So when lesbian couple "Liz" and "Wendy" adopted two Guatemalan children, only one of them could be legally recognised. The couple decided that Liz, who went out to work as the breadwinner, would be named as legal parent, while Wendy stayed at home to provide child care. Years later, when the couple split up, Wendy wanted to have her status as parent legally recognised.

Now, she is the one who stayed at home, and provided the bulk of day to day care. In most divorces, judges are more likely to grant child custody to the mother, on the reasonable grounds that she is the one (usually) who has provided greater day to day care, and is likely to have a stronger emotional bond with the kids. Other things being equal, similar reasoning in this case would have led to a preference for custody going to Wendy. Other things though. are not equal in queer families, and an appeals court in Wisconsin has rejected Wendy's claim. Not only does she not get legal custody, in Wisconsin, she has no legal status as parent at all.

The high profile political battles for equality are over marriage equality (and in the US,  DADT, and ENDA). It is important that state by state in the US, and country by country elsewhere, we continue to push also for legal recognition of adoption rights, as single people or as couples.

A Wisconsin appeals court has ruled that despite being a stay at home mom for years a wisconsin woman is not considered a parent to the two adopted children she has been raising for years.
The court ruled that only the woman's former partner is their parent since the adoption was done in her name. Court records only refer to the women as Wendy and Liz. Wendy and Liz had been together for 7 years when they decided to adopt their first child. They adopted a second in 2004. Wendy quit her job to stay at home with the children. Liz was named as their legal parent so the children would be covered under her health care plan. Under Wisconsin law same-sex couple cannot adopt children together.
The couple ended their relationship in 2008 and agreed  to an informal co-parenting agreement. Wendy petitioned for legal guardianship to protect her rights to make legal and medical decisions for the children. After originally agreeing to the guardianship, Liz changed her mind and objected.

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