Friday, February 03, 2006

Anita Bryant's Revenge

Well, Anita Bryant must be happy.  The Florida courts have affirmed the denial of visitation to a co-parenting lesbian who had separated from the birth mother.  

Two aspects of this case are particularly troubling.  First, the couple had a written parenting agreement that allowed for coparenting.  Second, the court found that the children’s best interests didn’t even come into play here – despite the fact that the trial court found “compelling evidence” that enforcement of the agreement was in the best interests of the children – because the co-parent was, in fact, not a parent at all.  

Citing Florida precedent and the state’s constitution, the court based its ruling on the birthmother’s privacy rights.  It said that the state does not have authority to compel visitation with a nonparent (even a grandparent) unless there is demonstrable evidence that harm would occur otherwise.  The court expressly declined to address Florida’s laws on same-sex marriage and adoption.  In short, the court said it was not permitted to acknowledge that the agreement even existed.

This is exactly the sort of result you can expect to see when cases resting on anti-gay marriage laws begin to wind their way through the courts.  Many of those new laws specifically prohibit the enforcement of any agreement that is based on a homosexual relationship.  Courts may be forced to rule that they have no authority to enforce parenting agreements or property settlements.  That is, assuming that such laws are found to be constitutional.  Of course, if the anti-gay language has been injected into the constitution itself, the court will be stuck with it.  And so, I’m afraid, will we.

It’s worth noting that Judge Van Nortwick, who sat on the panel, wrote a thoughtful concurrence in which he requested that the Florida state legislature address the needs of the children in nontraditional households.  If you’re looking for demographic statistics on the subject, his concurrence is a good starting point.

It’s also worth noting that birthmother Dené Dixon has not allowed her children – now only 7 and 5 years old –to speak to mom Mary Wakeman since June 3, 2004.  


  1. California seems to have gone the opposite direction with some of its rulings.

    Of course the zealots are protesting and are once again trying to change our constitution and the laws.

    We keep fighting back.

    I don't know what our "new, improved" Supreme Court will do it these cases ever get that far.

    Nothing personal, but there are times when I want to weep when I see what's happening in Florida. (All the way back to Anita Bryant).

  2. I think a lesson can be learned by gay and straight couples alike here:

    I believe that the courts need to go back and ask themselves: "Just who are we hurting here?"

    Because of the prolonged relationship and the situation involved co-parenting between the two women, non-biological-parent Mary should indeed be afforded the right to visit with the children if there has been no evidence of abuse on her part AND if the children are missing her and asking about her.

    But in ANY legal issue, the courts SHOULD be considering the TRUE best interests of the children, rather than their own debased, foul opinion of what truly makes a family.

  3. How horrible for the children and the mothers! How horrible that intolerant pro-family(in name only) people are using the courts to tear families apart.