Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Best Interests of the Children

The other week the West Virginia Supreme Court heard a custody case in which a young boy's mother was killed in a car accident, and the grandparents were fighting for custody against the deceased woman's lesbian partner. The two women had raised the child together from his birth 5 years ago. The initial family court hearing gave custody to the partner, as was the recommendation of the independent court-appointed advocate for the child, but an appellate court overturned it, saying that the partner had no standing to petition for custody. The Supreme Court, however, in a 3-2 decision, returned custody to the partner. The Court found this situation to be in the best interest of the child, which they cited as their primary concern. In the majority opinion, Justice Robin Davis wrote, "there unquestionably exists a relationship of significant duration between Tina [the partner] and [the boy] in which Tina has provided for the physical, psychological, financial and emotional needs of [the boy] and such that the child regards Tina as a parental figure in his life."

It is heartening to know that reasonable people will recognize a true family when they see one, and that keeping families together - whether gay or straight - is in the best interest of the children in the family. The fact that some judges felt compelled to separate the boy from his surviving parent for lack of legal standing only underscores the need to give legal recognition to such relationships. To oppose such recognition is to act against the best interests of the children in gay families.

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