Massachusetts court rules child custody laws apply to same-sex parents

[JURIST] The Massachusetts Appeals Court [official website] held Thursday that same-sex [JURIST news archive] couples who marry and have a baby via artificial insemination are bound by the same child custody laws [opinion] as heterosexual couples. The decision came after an appeal by Della Corte, who tried to have the parental rights of her ex-wife, Angelica Rameriez, revoked in divorce proceedings since she could never be a "husband," as defined by the Massachusetts law. The court found that even though Rameriez had no biological connection with the child and that the child was conceived before the marriage, she should still be considered a legal parent. Since the child was born after the marriage, both women should be considered legal parents. The appeals court relied heavily on a 2003 Supreme Judicial Court ruling that eliminated gender descriptions.

In [2003], the Supreme Judicial Court specifically noted that without the right to civil marriage, same sex couples were required to "undergo the sometimes lengthy and intrusive process of second-parent adoption to establish their joint parentage." As a result, it follows that when there is a marriage between same-sex couples, the need for that second-parent adoption to, at the very least, confer legal parentage on the nonbiological parent is eliminated when the child is born of the marriage.
Corte is reviewing the decision with her lawyer and is contemplating whether to pursue further legal action.

Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriages in 2004 and has since issued licenses to more than 16,000 same-sex couples. In March 2009, a group of Massachusetts plaintiffs who were or had been married under the state's same-sex marriage law filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the federal Defense Of Marriage Act [JURIST news archive]. Other jurisdictions have also enacted same-sex marriage laws. Currently, seven US jurisdictions recognize same-sex marriage: New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Washington and New York [JURIST reports].

 

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