Alabama Court Removes Child from Lesbian Mother
Associated Press, June 26, 1998
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Alabama Supreme Court, overturning an appeals
panel, has removed a child from the custody of her homosexual mother, ruling that the
woman exposed her daughter to a lifestyle that is illegal in Alabama.
The 7-0 decision authored by Justice Champ Lyons found that the child's best interests
would be better served in a home with her father and his new wife.
The Supreme Court's ruling Friday said Jefferson County Circuit Judge Ralph Ferguson
applied the correct legal standard by removing the young girl from a mother who was living
with another woman in an "open lesbian relationship."
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals had reversed Ferguson's order, holding that the
father didn't prove the mother's conduct was having a "substantial detrimental
effect" on the child.
But the high court said there was no need to prove there was a substantial detrimental
effect, only that the child's interests were better served in the father's home.
"While the evidence shows that the mother loves the child and has provided her
with good care, it also shows that she has chosen to expose the child continuously to a
lifestyle that is 'neither legal in this state, nor moral in the eyes of most of its
citizens," Lyons wrote, quoting a previous court decision.
A 1975 Alabama statute proclaims all homosexual conduct to be criminal. Earlier this
year, the state enacted a law that banned same-sex marriages.
At the time of the 1993 divorce, the father gave up custody knowing the mother was
involved in a lesbian relationship, but with the understanding she would keep it discrete
and not let the child know about it.
The father later remarried. During visits to his house, the girl told her dad that her
mother and companion were sleeping in the same bed together. That prompted the father to
sue for custody.
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which
helped argue the case on the mother's behalf, said the mother essentially lost custody
because she was honest about her relationship.
"What's unique about the case is that it doesn't appear to hold that a lesbian or
gay parent is always disqualified from custody," Ms. Kendell said in a telephone
interview from her San Francisco office. "Rather, it enforces upon those parents that
they live a lie -- that they not live their lives with integrity or be honest with their
children about being gay."
The decision cited testimony from several psychologists, who had differing opinions on
where the child should live, but all agreed the girl had a good home relationship with her
mother and her partner.
The Christian Family Association, an Alabama group that has promoted fundamentalist
Christian positions, said that was no substitute for a traditional family environment.
"The Supreme Court has placed the girl with a real family," said spokesman
Dean Young. "People aren't fooled. People can say a family is whatever they want to,
but God said a man and a woman would come together to start a family, not two women or two
The opinion was signed by Chief Justice Perry Hooper Sr and by Justices Hugh Maddox,
Reneau Almon and Gorman Houston. Justices Mark Kennedy and Harold See agreed with the
result, while Justices Janice Shores and Ralph Cook did not participate in the decision.
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