Denver Post

Tuesday, October 26, 1999

Lesbian couple ruled parents

By Peggy Lowe
Denver Post Staff Writer

Oct. 26 - In a pioneering decision, a Boulder judge has awarded full parental rights to two lesbian partners even though one of the women has no biological ties to the other's unborn child.

The ruling, by Boulder District Judge Roxanne Bailin, will allow both women to place their names on the child's birth certificate. The biological mother, identified as Anne G., will soon give birth and will then share parenting duties with Jane K., her longtime companion.

The case is among a handful of trendsetting decisions across the country giving gays legal rights to non-biological children. Due to breakthroughs in reproductive science, a growing number of gays and lesbians are opting to have children, but they often face custody problems because they are not allowed to marry.

Bailin said in an interview that she based her Sept. 30 ruling purely on Colorado law, which she said allows people who have no biological connection to a child to assume parental rights in certain circumstances.

"This was not a political act,'' she said. "It was a purely legal interpretation.''

Gay-rights advocates hail the ruling as a groundbreaking, saying it offers the children of gay and lesbian parents the same rights as those enjoyed by children of heterosexual couples. Suzanne Banning, executive director of the Colorado Legal Initiatives Project, a gay legal group who assisted the women's attorneys, said the rulings recognize that parentage can be successfully asserted by many couples, regardless of gender or biological con nection.

"Although we do not have the right to get married, the children of our relationships should not lose their rights,'' Banning said.

But state Rep. Mark Paschall, R-Arvada, said he fears the "brave new world'' that such decisions create. He said American society is declining and going to "go the way of the Greek Empire and the Roman Empire.''

"Certainly the foundations of everything this country grew up with are shaking,'' Paschall said. "Meanings are changing.''

Anne G. and Jane K. are pseudonyms for the Boulder couple in the case, which is sealed and not available to the public. Anne G. got pregnant with sperm from an anonymous donor, according to people familiar with the case.

Denver attorney Emily Anderson, who represents Jane K., said the couple's daughter will now be eligible for inheritance rights, medical coverage and other privileges from both women.

"This ruling gives kids the access they deserve to the parents who raise them,'' Anderson said. "We've got to make sure we have these inroads in the law to keep up with (reproductive) technology.''

Boulder attorney Barbara Lavender, who represents Anne G., said the ruling assures that if one of the child's parents dies, the other will not risk losing custody.

"We are giving protection for the family unit, for their nuclear family,'' Lavender said. "Whether people like their style of family or not is irrelevant. This is the family they have. To me, that is family values.''

Boulder courts have seen a handful of similar cases, Bailin said. And there have been a half-dozen or so similar decisions in California, said Shannon Minter, an attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco.

"I think it's very natural and an almost inevitable result of the fact that more same-sex couples are having children and that more heterosexual couples, both married and unmarried, are using reproductive technology to have children,'' he said.

Copyright 1999 The Denver Post.