You’ve heard the story before (and before that). A lesbian couple splits up. The biological mother tries to deny custody to the non-biological mother. They go to court. (In the case of Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller, they did so for years, with disastrous results when the bio mom flouted court orders and went into hiding with the child.)
The case of Kim Smith and Maggie Quale has a small twist, however. Quale, the biological mother, is now in a relationship with Shawn Wallace, whom she and Smith used as their known donor when the women were still a couple. Quale and Wallace now want full custody of the resulting twins, reports the Mercury News. Although Smith did not adopt the children, both she and Quale are listed as parents on their birth certificate. I’m not a lawyer, but my understanding is that under California law, that should be enough to secure her rights. [Nancy Polikoff, who is a lawyer, says it’s not the birth certificate that matters, but rather the non-bio mom’s conduct.] (That’s yet another reason, however, that non-bio moms should do a second-parent adoption just in case, if their state allows it.)
The only good thing about this case, if there is one, is that Quale, who says she is bisexual, has not renounced her orientation or enlisted any right-wing help, as in so many of the previous cases. Her lawyer says Smith’s lawsuit “has put them in the painful position of asserting their rights while still appearing to support the growing effort to protect the rights of gay parents.”
Hmm. Methinks that supporting the rights of gay parents includes supporting the parenthood of non-bio parents. I’m not sure I buy her reasoning. At least she’s not being virulently anti-gay about it, though. Compared with most of these cases, that’s a small gain. For Smith, however, I fear it is not enough.