Fla. Supreme Court settles lesbian custody battle

#735818: Florida Supreme Court building, Tallahassee, photo AP Graphics

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a woman who donated an egg to her lesbian partner has parental rights to the child and is ordering a lower court to work out custody, child support and visitation arrangements.

The case involves two women, identified only by their initials, who had a child together. One donated an egg that was fertilized and implanted in the other, who gave birth in 2004.

But two years later the Brevard County couple split up, and the birth mother took the girl and left the country. The other woman, who identifies herself as the biological mother, used a private detective to find her former partner in Australia, and a custody fight ensued.

The court wrote that the birth mother's "preference that she parent the child alone is sadly similar to the views of all too many parents who, after separating, prefer to exclude the other parent in the child's life. The court added that "an all-or-nothing choice between the two parents is not necessary."

A trial judge ruled for the birth mother and said the biological mother has no parental rights under state law, adding that he hoped his decision would be overturned.

The 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach sided with the biological mother and said both women have parental rights.

At issue is the 1993 state law meant to regulate sperm and egg donation and to prevent donors from claiming parental rights to a child born to another couple. In this case, however, the Supreme Court said that the donor provided her egg as part of an agreement to parent the child together and she acted as a parent after the child was born. Thus, the law doesn't apply.

"It would indeed be anomalous if, under Florida law, an unwed biological father would have more constitutionally protected rights to parent a child after a one night stand than an unwed biological mother who, with a committed partner and as part of a loving relationship, planned for the birth of a child and remains committed to supporting and raising her own daughter," the court wrote.

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