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ACLU Appeals Decision in Lesbian Custody Case; Challenges
Presumption of Unfit Parenthood Based on Lesbian Relationship
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 15, 1993
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the ACLU's
national Lesbian and Gay Right Project today asked the Virginia Court of
Appeals to overturn a lower court decision on behalf of Sharon Bottoms,
the 23-year-old Virginia woman who lost custody of her 2-year-old son in
September because she is in a lesbian relationship. Filing of the brief
sets into motion an expedited review of the case.
"The ACLU is representing Sharon Bottoms because we believe that her
case raises a critical principle -- that parents be judged according to
their parenting ability, not their sexual orientation," said William B.
Rubenstein, Director of the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights
Because there was absolutely no evidence that the mother's lesbian
relationship had any detrimental effect on the child, the ACLU is asking
the appeals court to reverse the trial judge's ruling and restore custody
to Sharon Bottoms.
"Virginia law has always protected the parent-child bond, but the
trial court broke that bond solely because of Sharon Bottoms' lesbian
relationsip," said Marc E. Elovitz, staff counsel at the ACLU's national
Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "We trust that the appeals court will
review the evidence and reject the trial court's reliance on the cruel and
unfounded presumption that lesbians and gay men are unfit parents."
Also filed today were three "friend-of-the-court" briefs from
national organizations that support Sharon Bottoms' position. The amicus
curiae brief from the National Center for Lesbian Rights places the
Bottoms case in a national context by examining court cases from around
the country on gay and lesbian custody issues and argues that, if upheld,
the Bottoms case will be the only one in the nation in which child custody
has been given to a third party because of the parent's sexual
orientation. NCLR's brief is joined by a host of national gay and lesbian
civil rights groups including the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund,
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, National Lesbian and Gay Law
Association, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, NOW Legal Defense
and Education Fund, the Women's Law Project, and Northwest Women's Law
A brief submitted on behalf of national mental health groups contains
a detailed review of the social science research studies which have shown
that children with gay parents develop no differently from children with
heterosexual parents. This brief is signed by the American Psychological
Association, the National Association of Social Workers and its Virginia
affiliate, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
A third brief, from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a
national organization of domestic relations attorneys, further discusses
many of the gay and lesbian custody cases around the country and argues
that children are always harmed when custody is taken from the parent.
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