By Peter J. Smith
RICHMOND, Virginia, June 5, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Virginia’s Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on Tuesday that the biological mother of a child conceived through artificial insemination during a lesbian relationship had a fundamental right as a fit parent to deny visitation rights from her former lesbian partner.
The high court issued its 3-0 decision in the case Stadter v. Siperko, saying that Christine Stadter’s arguments that she deserved the same rights as a “psychological parent” to the child of her former partner, Jennifer Siperko, had no foundation in Virginia law. The court added that the law presumes a fit biological parent to know “the best interests of the child,” which trumps the objections of interested third-parties, including former homosexual partners like Stadter.
In 1999 Jennifer Siperko and Christine Stadter entered into a lesbian relationship, after which time Siperko conceived a child through artificial insemination. The child was born January 10, 2003 and was given a hyphenated name combining the women’s last names, even though legally Stadter had not adopted the child. Siperko cared for the child, while Stadter provided financial support.
However the lesbian liaison disintegrated thereafter and by June 2004 was finished. For the sake of her child, Siperko broke off all contact with Stadter in September 2004 and refused to allow Stadter visitation.
Stadter then initiated a custody battle and argued in Virginia courts that she should be considered a “de facto” or “psychological” parent because of an emotional bond she had with the child.
“Here an admittedly fit biological parent has objected to the granting of visitation to a person found to have a legitimate interest in the child,” stated Judge Jean Clements writing the majority opinion. The court said the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution protects the rights of parents to raise their children and since the law presumes fit parents act in the best interests of the child, there was no reason for the court to interfere.
Clements stated that Stadter had argued that she was entitled to the same rights “where a biological parent has actively encouraged a parent-child relationship with a cohabitating partner who assumed parental responsibilities for a length of time to establish a bond with the child.”
“The issue [Stadter] puts before us is whether we will implement – by judicial fiat – a visitation doctrine of de facto or psychological parent in the Commonwealth,” wrote Clements. The decision noted that no other appellate court in Virginia had ever relied on this de facto parent doctrine and added, “We likewise decline to do so now.”
According to Liberty Counsel, a public advocacy group that has been fighting for the rights of parents over their biological children after leaving homosexual relationships, same-sex “marriage” advocates have tried to undermine the institution of marriage further by getting the courts to redefine parenthood to include those who are neither biologically nor legally related as de facto or psychological parents.
The ruling effects a precedent for Virginia courts and may have bearing on another custody battle being fought in that state between a mother who says she wants to protect her daughter from exposure to her former partner’s lesbian proclivities.
De facto parenthood, however, has been recognized in some states to allow custody of children to former homosexual partners. The US Supreme Court in 2006 declined to overturn the decision of the Washington State Supreme Court, which ruled that the biological mother, Page Britain, could not deny custody rights to her daughter from her former lesbian lover, Sue Ellen Carvin, so long as Carvin proved she is a “de facto parent.”
Britain, who had married the child’s biological father, wanted to have her child, then 11, baptized and educated in the Catholic Church, while Carvin desired to take her to a Buddhist temple.
Read the Virginia decision Stadter v. Siperko:
Lesbian’s Ex-Partner Declared “De-Facto Parent” by Washington State Court
Utah Supreme Court Refuses to Give Lesbian Parental Rights to Former Partner’s Child
Vermont Supreme Court Upholds Lesbian’s Visitation Rights against Natural Mother’s Wishes