Newsweek Covers Lesbian Custody Case

The latest issue of Newsweek has a long piece by Lorraine Ali, “Mrs. Kramer Vs. Mrs. Kramer” covering the child custody case between former civil union partners Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller. This is the case that I’ve covered many times before, which has bounced between the jurisdictions of Vermont and Virginia.

It’s good to see major mainstream coverage of LGBT family issues. The article is fairly balanced, except for an unfortunate use of the term “homosexual” instead of the less clinical “gay and lesbian” in a few places.

The article also touches on what I wrote this week for 365gay.com, which is that there is a difference between parental rights and marital rights, and we have to be careful not to assume one means the other. At the moment, marriage or civil unions alone do not convey parental rights across the whole country for non-biological lesbian and gay parents; at the same time, parental rights can be recognized in the absence of marriage for straight parents, and we must be careful as we move forward not to use marriage or civil unions as the only determining factor for non-biological or non-adoptive gay and lesbian parents. In other words, the idea of a de facto parent needs broad acceptance.

Ali is a little fuzzy about this, although she rightly notes that more consistent marriage or civil unions laws would help:

As more and more gay couples turn to IVF and adoption to have families of their own, the courts will surely find themselves tangled in more cases of mom against mom or dad versus dad. The fact that gay unions and marriages are legal in some places and not others is a large part of the conundrum. For opponents of same-sex marriage, it’s proof that as more cases migrate, all states will be forced to legally recognize these homosexual partnerships. For gay-rights advocates, it’s further evidence that the uneven patchwork of laws concerning same-sex civil unions and marriage may promise them equality in one locale, but leave them vulnerable in another.

I’m being picky here, but I do think this article serves a very useful purpose in highlighting the negative effect that anti-LGBT laws have on children, a theme that could use more attention.

[On another fussy, and much less important note, there's a slight misuse—or at least over-broad use—of the term IVF. In vitro fertilization is one way that lesbians can get pregnant, but involves combining egg and sperm outside the womb and then implanting the embryo. Most lesbians start with a simpler assisted insemination, aka the turkey baster method (though it's usually in fact a syringe, not a kitchen implement.)]

On a related note, Newsweek also has a lengthy article on what the Bible really says about marriage of same-sex couples. A great example of countering religious arguments with other religious arguments (which is what we need to do, IMHO, in order to find common ground and make progress).