Whatever Happened To . . . The Lesbian Mother Who Lost Custody Of Her Son?
November 29, 1999
P.O. Box 449, Norfolk, VA 23501-0449
Fax 757 446-2051
By Jane Harper
In 1993, a Henrico County juvenile court judge ruled that Sharon Bottoms was an unfit
mother because she was a lesbian, and awarded custody of Bottoms' then 20-month-old son,
Tyler Doustou, to Bottoms' mother, Pamela Kay Bottoms. A Virginia appeals court overturned
the ruling, but it was reinstated later by the Virginia Supreme Court.
The bitter 6-year legal battle for custody of Tyler Doustou apparently is not over.
Tyler's mother, Sharon Bottoms, who gave up her fight for custody of her son in August
1996 after a series of defeats in the case, recently filed a new petition requesting
custody of Tyler.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Jan. 21 in Henrico County juvenile court.
Tyler, now 8, has been living with his grandmother, Pamela Kay Bottoms, in Spotsylvania
County since 1993. That's when Pamela Kay Bottoms first learned that her daughter was a
lesbian and decided to seek custody of the boy.
Sharon Bottoms is allowed regular visitations with her son, including spending every
other weekend and some holidays with him. Her girlfriend, April Wade, however, is
forbidden to have contact with the boy.
Maureen L. White, an attorney representing Pamela Kay Bottoms, declined to discuss the
case, other than to say that Tyler and his grandmother were doing fine.
Donald K. Butler, who represents Sharon Bottoms, also declined to discuss the case.
Bottoms, who willingly spoke to the press in her previous court battles with her mother
and even cooperated with the making of a television movie about the case, could not be
reached for comment and was being advised by her attorney not to discuss the case.
Although she gave up her fight for full custody three years ago, Bottoms continued to
seek a revision in the court order that would allow Wade to spend time with her and Tyler,
said Kent Willis, director of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union,
which has assisted Sharon Bottoms in her case.
A three-judge appeals court panel recently ruled that the presiding judge in the case
clearly made his ruling based on the couple's lesbian relationship and ordered that he
change his ruling, Willis said. But when the judge refused and the case was sent back to
the appellate court, a different panel was assigned to the case and upheld the judge's
order, Willis said.
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