Film Shows Lesbian Mom Losing Custody to Convicted Murderer

Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of how far we’ve come. In 1995, Floridian Mary Ward lost custody of their daughter to her ex-husband, even though he had been absent from the girl’s life for six years—and been convicted of murdering his first wife in a custody dispute. Why did the judge not award custody to Ward? She was a lesbian. Now, a new documentary tells the sobering story of the case.

UNFIT: Ward vs. Ward, produced and directed by Edwin Scharlau and Katie Carmichael, with director/writer Penny Edmiston,  premiered last week at the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

The details of the case only get worse. Even an appeal filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) failed. The ex-husband’s daughter from his first marriage accused him of molesting her, and said she knew he had molested other children, writes Steve Rothaus of the Miami Herald. Shortly after she lost the appeal, Ward died of a heart attack.

The only good news, Rothaus reports (quoting Kate Kendell, executive director of NCLR), is that it is much less likely today, even in Florida, that a lesbian or gay man would lose custody because of sexual orientation.

Still, Unfit tells a part of our history we should never forget. Here’s a trailer. Keep an eye on the film Web site for future screenings (like the Boston LGBT Film Festival this Sunday at 4:30 p.m.)