Waldlaw Blog

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Win Worth Celebrating

Every once in a while, we need to take a moment to celebrate the victories. In 2002, a devoted father -- who happens to be both deaf and gay -- was told by a Virginia court that he could have custody of his son only on condition that his life partner move out of their family home. The Virginia order was based on that court's premise that a child can't live with a couple committing sodomy in the home. The couple could not afford to maintain the family home as well as a separate residence for the partner, and ended up having to move to two rental units. As a direct result of the court order, the father and son went from a large home with a yard to an apartment building. Ultimately, they moved to Maryland, and the father and his partner have been fighting ever since to get the custody order modified by the Maryland courts. The legal argument, for those of you who care about legal intricacies, was over whether the consequences of the Virginia order -- including the move to a smaller, rental residence in a new community; the burden on the father of being forced to function as a single parent, without the assistance of his partner; and the sadness the child experienced at not having his step-dad in the home -- constituted a sufficient change in circumstances to warrant modification of the original custody order. The attorneys on the case -- with Susan Silber of Takoma Park as lead counsel -- were assisted by both Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. When they finally won the right to an evidentiary hearing, the attorneys put on 5 witnesses to testify about the best interests of the child, and the deaf community turned out in force to support the couple. Yesterday, after four years of fighting, a Maryland trial court finally granted the modification request, and eliminated the condition banning the partner from the home. According to their lawyer, the couple is out house-hunting today. So -- kudos to Sue Silber of Silber & Perlman in Takoma Park, Maryland, for her excellent, relentless work on this case! It is victories like these that keep us all going. And for more details, see the NCLR press release from last January (2005), which is available on-line at: http://www.nclrights.org/releases/pr-md_brief_custody013105.htm.


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