Georgia court overturns custody order barring contact with parent's gay friends

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Georgia [official website] reversed [opinion, PDF] Monday a lower court's order in a divorce case that prohibited the children of a divorced father to be in contact with his gay and lesbian acquaintances. The court disagreed with the qualified visitation rights granted to Eric Mongerson on the grounds that no evidence exists that his homosexual friends behave inappropriately in front of the children. The court ruled that:


There is no evidence in the record before us that any member of the excluded [gay and lesbian] community has engaged in inappropriate conduct in the presence of the children or that the children would be adversely affected by exposure to any member of that community. The prohibition against contact with any gay or lesbian person acquainted with Husband assumes, without evidentiary support, that the children will suffer harm from any such contact. Such an arbitrary classification based on sexual orientation flies in the face of our public policy that encourages divorced parents to participate in the raising of their children, and constitutes an abuse of discretion.

Gay rights group Lambda Legal [advocacy website], which submitted an amicus brief in the case, praised [press release] Monday's ruling, saying, "[t]he court has done the right thing today by focusing on the needs of the children instead of perpetuating stigma on the basis of sexual orientation."

Other family courts have also struggled recently with the issue of homosexuality. In May, a New York a state appeals court ruled [opinion text] that a family court does not have jurisdiction [JURIST report] over a child support claim against a same-sex partner with no legal or biological ties to the child. In April, a New York state appeals court ruled [JURIST report] that a same-sex partner lacks standing to assert parental rights over the biological child of her partner unless she has adopted the child. In November, a Florida court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that a ban on adopting children for same-sex couples was unconstitutional, allowing a couple to adopt two children. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] upheld [opinion, PDF] the same Florida statute in 2005 as being rationally related to protecting the interests of children, and the US Supreme Court declined to review [WP report] that decision.

 

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