Brandon, FL (Law Firm Newswire) February 24, 2014 - Advocates are hailing a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Florida as an important step forward for gay rights in the state.
A Florida woman who donated an egg to her lesbian partner filed a lawsuit when the birth mother left the state with the child without informing the plaintiff after the couple ended their relationship. The two had planned to raise the child together. The state's highest court ruled by a vote of 4-3 that the egg donor had parental rights, and it ordered a lower court to arrange for child support and visitation.
“The significance of this case for gay and lesbian couples is that the women had no legal union, but simply agreed to raise the child together,” said Brandon family law attorney O. Reginald Osenton. “The Supreme Court said that trumped the notion that an egg donor relinquishes parental rights.”
The birth mother relied on a 1993 law governing sperm and egg donation to argue that her former partner had no say in the child's life. The 1993 law asserts that donors relinquish all parental rights. The Supreme Court ruled that the law was not applicable to the case because the egg donor showed “a commitment to raising the child by assuming parental responsibilities.”
The dissenting justices said that granting parental rights to the donor mother would interfere with the birth mother's rights.
Earlier, a trial judge ruled that state law granted the donor mother no rights, but said he hoped his decision would be overturned on appeal. It was. An appeals court declared that both women had parental rights — a decision the high court then upheld.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court referred to another landmark gay rights case. In 2010, an appellate court overturned Florida's 30-year-long ban on adoption by same-sex couples. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida represented Martin Gill, the plaintiff in that case, and wrote a “friend of the court” brief in the egg donor case. ACLU attorney Daniel Tilley said that the recent decision “cements and builds upon” the gay adoption victory.
“The ruling was a close one, with three justices dissenting, and Floridians still have a lot of work to do for same-sex couples' rights,” Osenton said. “Still, these recent cases are very encouraging.”
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