November 4, 2005
Volume 33
Issue 44

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Monday, Dec 09, 2019


State Supreme Court recognizes rights of non-biological Lesbian mother
State Supreme Court recognizes rights of non-biological Lesbian mother
Early childhood caretaking; parental responsibilities critical to the definition of 'parent,' says court

The Washington Supreme Court today issued a decision protecting the rights of children and their parents in "non-traditional" families. In In Re Parentage of L.B., the Court recognized the legal right of non-biological parents, including Lesbian and Gay parents, to maintain their relationships with their children. The Northwest Women's Law Center brought suit on behalf of Mian Carvin, who had a daughter with her ex-partner, Page Britain, using artificial insemination. After the couple split up, Ms. Britain prohibited their daughter and Ms. Carvin from having any contact.

"The Court today has recognized the realities of today's families, and taken an important step for the rights of children and parents," stated Lisa M. Stone, Executive Director of the Northwest Women's Law Center. "Mian Carvin was the primary caretaker of her daughter for more than six years; she performed all the duties and obligations of a parent, and she deserves to be treated as a parent. What's more, her daughter deserves to have both her mothers in her life."

Today's decision marks the first time this state's highest court has addressed this issue. The Court noted, "in the face of advancing technologies and evolving notions of what comprises a family unit, this case causes us to confront the manner in which our state . . . defines the terms 'parents' and 'families'." Though Ms. Britain carried the child, Ms. Carvin was known to the child as "mama", known to all the community and family members as the child's parent, and was her daughter's primary caretaker for the first 6 1/2 years of the child's life. After the parents' relationship ended, Ms. Britain severed all contact between the child and Ms. Carvin. The Court's decision today will allow Ms. Carvin to go to trial to prove that she is her daughter's mother and that she should have the same rights as any other parent would after separation. In its ruling, the Court noted that the state must act to "effectuate the best interests of the child in the face of differing notions of family and to provide . . . support and nurturing to the children of our state." The Court went on to state, "Reason and common sense support recognizing the existence of de facto parents and according them the rights and responsibilities which attach to parents in this state."

This is all Ms. Carvin asked: to assume the obligations and responsibilities of parenthood. As she has throughout this case, Ms. Carvin remains most concerned about her daughter. Upon learning of the decision, she issued this statement:

I am very happy that the Court has recognized the significance of our family. With this decision, the Court has become a voice for my daughter and children like her. I am deeply grateful for all who made this day possible, especially for the tireless efforts of my attorneys and everyone at The Northwest Women's Law Center who do such important work in furthering the rights of women everywhere. Their perseverance and dedication to this process has been an inspiration I will carry with me forever. Although this case is about the relationship between my daughter and me, it stretches beyond those boundaries to include other families in similar situations. These are deeply personal matters which affect a child. My hope is that we can now move away from the court process and on to the important work of raising our daughter. For that reason, I will not be making any further comment. Your respect of that decision is appreciated. Thank you.

The ruling will apply to adults who have, in the Court's words, "fully and completely undertaken a permanent, unequivocal, committed and responsible role in the child's life." Ms. Carvin may now return to the trial court and prove she meets that test. The Northwest Women's Law Center and other women's children and family advocates welcome this decision as an important step toward legal equality for all families. The decision can be found at

A Northwest Women's Law Center press release

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