Two lesbian law-enforcement officers are currently undergoing a landmark custody battle in Florida. The two women, who wish to remain anonymous, were in a relationship for eleven years, splitting when their daughter was two years old.
The child was conceived using a method of artificial insemination where an egg is donated from one woman (termed the biological mother) and fertilized and implanted in the other (the birth mother). After their separation, the birth mother left Florida for Australia with the child without telling the biological mother.
The new technology of conception challenges the meaning of the current Florida Statute meant to regulate anonymous sperm and egg donation. The law does not include terminology for a case such as the one in question. A study by San Diego City District Attorney, Christina M. Eastman, said that this was, “a new frontier of gender discrimination.”
The current law states, “An identified or anonymous donor of sperm or eggs used in A.I.D., [Artificial Insemination by Donor], or any person claiming by or through such donor, shall not have any right or interest in any child born as a result of A.I.D.”
Initially, a trial judge ruled in favor of the birth mother, but had said he hoped that his ruling would be overturned. It was, and the 5th District Court of Appeals in Daytona Beach ruled that both mothers had equal rights. The case is now slated for the Florida Supreme Court. They have not announced whether or not they will take the case.
The appellate attorney representing the biological mother, Shannon McLin Carlyle, said the majority of those in the appellate court made a pro-parent decision, not a gay rights decision.
“But it does solidify gay couples’ right to retain a relationship with their child,” she said. “If it goes the other way, parenthood could be subject to risk on the whim of the other partner.”
Given the new application of A.I.D. used by lesbian couples to produce a child, this particular case will likely provide a precedent to similar cases in the future.
Florida recently overturned a ban on same-sex adoption in the Fall of 2010, calling the ban “unconstitutional.” This ruling may influence the court regarding the present case to grant custody to both women, as the rights of gay parents in Florida are legally upheld.