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Supreme Court to consider legal rights of lesbian parent

A woman has filed an appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, challenging the lower court's ruling that she is not the legal parent of a child born during her lesbian marriage. The woman's ex-wife conceived their son with sperm from an anonymous donor and was granted physical custody. The woman who filed the appeal is seeking more than "in loco parentis" status; she wants to be legally recognized as the child's parent.

When presiding over the couple's divorce, the lower court ruled that both women could not be legal parents. The judge said that the child's natural father is legally the child's father and the child's natural mother is legally the child's mother. However, the court ordered that the woman pay child support and granted her visitation rights, finding that although she has no legal connection to the child, she must still assume parental rights and obligations.

Both women chose to have the child during their marriage and they both continued to raise the child even after their separation. The woman is arguing that the trial court discriminated against her because of her sexual orientation and notes the disparity in the court's consideration of an anonymous sperm donor as more of a parent than the person who raises the child.

The woman's attorney remarked on the particularly challenging venue of Mississippi, citing an earlier case in which the Supreme Court opined that the United States Supreme Court overreached its authority in legalizing same-sex marriage. The woman acknowledges the implications for future cases such as hers and wants to set a precedent that will allow both members of a same-sex divorce to have not only child custody rights but also legal recognition as the child's parents. Given the conservative legal backdrop, it would be a huge advancement for the lesbian and gay communities if the Mississippi Supreme Court were to rule in her favor.

Source: The Clarion Ledger, "Lesbian challenges Mississippi court ruling that she's not legal parent", Emily Wagster Pettus, June 2, 2017

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