Center for Law and Policy
Court Says Same-Sex Partner Can Claim Same Rights As Biological Parent
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American Family Association
P.O. Drawer 2440
Tupelo, MS 38803
For Immediate Release: 11/4/2005
Tupelo, MS - Yesterday, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that an individual who is not a parent, but who has had a relationship with a child’s biological or adoptive parent, can claim the same legal rights to a child as the parent.
The case involved two women who had cohabitated for twelve years. In 1994, the two women, Sue Ellen Carvin and Page Britain, decided they wanted a child. A male friend, John Auseth, had sexual relations with Britain, and she become pregnant. A child was born in 1995, and Britain and Carvin raised the child for the next six years. Their relationship ended in 2001. Britain then married Auseth, and in 2002, she sought to terminate all of Carvin’s contact with the child.
With only one dissent, the court held that Washington’s “common law recognizes the status of de facto parents and places them in parity with biological and adoptive parents.” If Carvin is able to establish standing as a de facto parent, said the court, then just like Britain, she “would have a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody and control” of the child.
Dissenting Justice Johnson wrote, “The majority purports to dispose of the constitutional issue raised . . . by waving a magic wand and creating ‘de facto’ parents.”
Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, called the majority’s decision “an unambiguous case of social engineering.”
“Washington law sets forth in the clearest terms when a parent-child relationship exists, and the majority simply elected to disregard the law,” Fahling said. “Relying upon ‘advancing technologies and evolving notions of what comprises a family unit,’ the court imposed on the people of Washington their own definition of what constitutes a family.
“This decision is judicial activism in the extreme; it is evidence, not that we are on a slippery slope, but that we are already at the bottom of that slope,” Fahling added.
The Center is the legal arm of the American Family Association, Inc. located in Tupelo, Mississippi. The Center restricts its practice to First Amendment issues.