(08-22) 13:25 PDT San Francisco (SF Chronicle) -- Lesbian and gay couples who plan for a family and raise a child together can be considered legal parents after a breakup, with all the rights and responsibilities of heterosexual parents, the California Supreme Court ruled today.
In three decisions that a gay-rights advocate described as historic, the court upheld the claims of motherhood by estranged lesbian partners who had been involved in relationships that resulted in children born by artificial insemination. The court noted that the three women had cooperated in conceiving and rearing the children in a family setting and, thus, had the right of parenthood under the law — from the privilege of visitation to the responsibility of child support payments.
“We perceive no reason why both parents of a child cannot be women,’’ said Justice Carlos Moreno, author of all three rulings. He said the court’s statement in a 1993 surrogate-parent case, that a child can have only one natural mother, was limited to situations in which fatherhood was established and two women – the surrogate mother and the father’s wife who signed the surrogacy contract – had competing claims for motherhood.
Courts in other states have granted visitation and other parental rights to same-sex partners who had bonded with their child, ruling that such a nurturing adult may be considered a “psychological parent’’ even if not biologically related to the child. But today’s rulings are the first in the nation to grant full parental status to both members of same-sex couples who participate in planning and rearing a child, said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which took part in all three cases.
“This is one of those moments of legal history in the making,’’ Minter said. “The decisions are going to be important not just in California but across he country.’’