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Court Restores Child Custody to Lesbian Mother;
ACLU Wins Reversal in Virginia Appeals Court
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 1994
The Virginia Court of Appeals today reversed a lower court ruling
and restored child custody to Sharon Bottoms, the 23-year-old Virginia
woman whose 2-year-old son, Tyler, was ordered out of her custody a year
ago because she was in a lesbian relationship.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the ACLU's
national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, which jointly appealed the trial
court's decision removing Sharon Bottoms' son from her custody, heralded
today's ruling as a victory over prejudice and cruelty.
"We convinced the Court to look at Sharon Bottoms as a mother, not
as a stereotype," said Marc E. Elovitz, Staff Counsel with the ACLU's
national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "The Appeals Court rejected the
lower court's unfounded presumptions about lesbian and gay parents and
instead acted in the best interests of the child."
In filing the appeal, the ACLU argued that there was absolutely no
evidence that Sharon Bottoms' relationship with another woman had any
detrimental effect on her child and that the trial court's decision rested
on the unfounded presumption that lesbians and gay men are inherently
"Today Virginia joins the vast majority of states that ask whether a
parent's sexual orientation or any other characteristic will harm the
child; not whether some people are still prejudiced against lesbians and
gay men," said Ruth E. Harlow, Associate Director of the ACLU's national
Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
"The Court relied on the body of studies documenting that children
with lesbian and gay parents grow up to be just like children of
heterosexual parents," said Kent Willis, Executive Director of the ACLU of
Virginia. "Parenting ability does not correlate with sexual orientation."
The case was closely watched by a host of national gay and lesbian
civil rights groups, women's rights organizations, mental health
associations and advocates for children, many of whom filed "friend of the
court" briefs in support of Sharon Bottoms.
Donald E. Butler of Richmond, Virgina acted as cooperating attorney
and Stephen Pershing, Legal Director of the ACLU of Virginia, and Player
B. Michaelson assisted in representing Sharon Bottoms.
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