Waldlaw Blog

Friday, June 09, 2006

We Won in the Court of Appeal!

As those of you who follow this blog know, a couple of weeks ago I argued the first lesbian parentage dispute to make it to the Court of Appeal since the California Supreme Court ruled on the trio of lesbian cases last summer. Well, today the Court of Appeal issued its ruling and ... well ... we won!! The case involves a lesbian couple who were together for about 5 years before deciding to have a baby. They were registered domestic partners; they became pregnant using sperm from an anonymous donor; they gave their daughter their hyphenated last names; and non-bio mom stayed home with the baby when bio mom went back to work. Then, when the baby was about 4 months old, bio mom announced that the relationship was over and that she was taking "her" daughter and leaving. That was almost 3 years ago, and non-bio mom has only seen the child twice since. When Charisma (non-bio mom) first called me about this situation, back in 2004, no attorney wanted to represent her because -- under the law as it stood then -- the case was such a loser. I explained to her -- as a number of attorneys had before -- that she was a "legal stranger" to her daughter, and didn't have standing to request visitation or custody of her. But Charisma wouldn't give up. She was absolutely clear that this was her daughter and that she could never look at herself in the mirror again if she didn't do everything in her power to fight for her. As a mother myself, I understood that, and I helped her put together the legal arguments she needed to make in the trial court, so that she could preserve all possible issues for appeal, on the hope and belief that some day the law would change and she might win. When I stood up for Charisma in the Court of Appeal on May 18, 2006, the thing that most moved me was the sense of how far we had come in such a short amount of time. From 2004 -- when there was no question that Charisma was going to lose -- to 2006, the law has changed so much that what was a slam-dunk loser only two years ago now felt winnable. And now we've won. The decision is good. It will set the rules of engagement for lesbian couples wrangling over custody and visitation issues in the First District -- which covers twelve Northern California counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma -- for some years to come. It makes absolutely clear that where a lesbian couple uses an anonymous sperm donor to have a baby together, and brings that baby home together, and raises that baby together for some period of time, that baby is entitled to have two legal parents the same way that babies born to heterosexual couples do. And I am very proud and happy to have played a role in making this important change in the law. So congratulations Charisma! Congratulations NCLR on fighting the good fight -- as always! And, most of all, congratulations to all the children of dissolved lesbian couples who may now get to have two mommies without having to endure a long and blistering court fight along the way! To read the decision, if you're interested in the details, go to: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/ The case is Charisma R. v. Kristina S., and the decision was released today, 6/9/06.


  • Congratulations on this win. Myself, and many others that have "met" Charisma through this online world, are ecstatic to hear of her victory. I actually met Charisma on an online listserv when she and Kristina conceived this child. So to see this come full circle for her is truly joyous! Tell her that her LTTC friends celebrate with her. And thanks for helping lesbian couples everywhere to mantain our families!

    By Blogger Kris, at 12:04 PM  

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