The Maryland Supreme Court has handed down a stinging blow for gay and lesbian couples: ruling against parental visitation rights for a lesbian partner. The issue is what the court of appeals called “de facto parenthood,” which it rejected in the case of Janice M. and Margaret K.
There is much about the case that is curious — starting with the case name. It is unclear why these adults sought to conceal their names. Being a lesbian parent is lawful and these woman reinforced a negative stereotype through the use of such partial anonymity.
The opinion itself, however, is the greatest problem for the gay community. De facto parenthood is used to refer relationships where parental roles have been assumed without biological or adoptive ties to a child. It is more often used for friends or neighbors or step parents. The decision could unravel lower rulings in favor of former gay or lesbian partners.
In this case, Janice M. adopted a child named Maya from India during her 18-year relationship with Margaret K. It was Margaret petitioned for custody and received visitation rights in the lower court. The Appellate court remanded on the question of whether “exceptional”circumstances existed. Now, the Supreme Court wiped away the rights entirely. For Janice, it must be a strange victory: her rights as a parent were secured at the costs of her rights as a lesbian. Yet, her lawyers insists that Margaret “never had much interest in the child” until after the couple split up.
For the opinion, click here.
For an article, click here.