February 25, 2013

On Friday, February 22, 2013, the Kansas Supreme Court issued its opinion in Frazier v. Goudschaal, a case raising important issues for lesbian and gay parents and their children.   The Court ruled that, when a same-sex couple has children together, Kansas parentage laws apply equally to women and non-biological parents, and that courts must consider the reality of who a child’s parents are in order to protect the best interests of children.  Significantly, the Court also ruled that an agreement to co-parent and share custody is enforceable if it is in the best interests of the children.

Marci Frazier and Kelly Goudschaal were in a same-sex relationship and decided to have children together through insemination. Kelly was the birth mother for their two children.  After the children were born, Marci and Kelly raised them for years as co-parents. Marci and Kelley gave the children hyphenated last names, and the two mothers signed a written agreement saying that they both intended to be parents and share custody of the children. Unfortunately, the relationship between Kelly and Marci broke down in 2008. They co-parented the children for a period of time after separation, but then Kelly cut off contact between Marci and the children.

After Marci went to court to try to see the children again, a Kansas trial court granted joint custody to the two women. Kelly appealed this order and argued that Marci was not a parent and had no right to seek custody. The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling and explained that both women could be legally recognized as parents under Kansas law.

With this decision, Kansas joins a number of other states in ruling that when two people bring a child into the world and raise that child as co-parents, the law should recognize that both people are the child’s parents, regardless of gender or biology. These courts have recognized that a child’s need for family stability depends on the existence of a legally protected relationship with both parents. This ruling is significant not only for same-sex parents, but also for many kinds of families where non-biological parents are raising children.

The ACLU Foundation of Kansas and Western Missouri partnered with the ACLU LGBT Project and the National Center for Lesbian Rights in submitting a friend of the court brief to the Kansas Supreme Court in support of Marci Frazier.  Rose A. Saxe, Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project, with the help of Cathy Sakimura of the National Center for Lesbian Rights wrote our amicus brief, and Legal Director Doug Bonney served as local counsel.

News Coverage

"Kan. Supreme Court upholds lesbian mother's rights", 02/23/2013, The Wichita Eagle

"Parental rights upheld for same-sex partner", 02/22/2013, The Topeka  Capital-Journal

"Kansas Supreme Court upholds  lesiban mother's rights", 02/22/2013, The Kansas City Star

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