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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 13, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 15
Lesbian mom has parental rights to nonbiological child, Mississippi Supreme Court says
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Lesbian mom has parental rights to nonbiological child, Mississippi Supreme Court says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled on April 5 that a Lesbian has parental rights to the nonbiological child of her former marriage. The decision gives same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex parents.

The ruling established Chris Strickland's rights to continue to parent her son Zayden, in spite of the objections of her former spouse, Kimberly Day. Both Strickland and Day are residents of Mississippi.

The former couple began dating in 1999 and soon decided to start a family together despite Mississippi's ban on marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

Because of the adoption ban, they decided that Day alone would adopt their first son. The couple married in Massachusetts in 2009 and then began planning to expand their family, this time using reproductive technology. They agreed that Day would carry the child, and she became pregnant in 2010 using an anonymous donor.

When their second son, Zayden, was born, Strickland was the first to hold him. Because the state did not recognize their marriage, only Day was listed on the birth certificate, but the baby boy was given Chris' last name.

Both women are named as his parents on his birth announcement. They raised their two children together, and for the first year of his life, Strickland was Zayden's primary caretaker. The boys call Day 'mom' and Strickland 'mama.'

When the couple separated in 2013, Strickland continued to parent their boys, visiting with and providing support for both children until Day abruptly decided to cut all contact in August 2015.

Day married her current spouse, a man, on August 13, 2015, in Mississippi, causing Strickland to file for divorce on August 31.

In October 2016, in the divorce final judgment, Day's husband was blocked from adopting the children and Strickland was awarded visitation rights and ordered to pay child support for both children.

However, the court also ruled that Strickland was not the legal parent to her second son because the anonymous sperm donor's rights as a father supersede her rights as his nonbiological parent.

Last year, Mississippi Chancery Judge John Grant denied Strickland's request to be listed as Zayden's legal parent due to the lack of biological ties, despite the fact that she'd raised the boy since birth.

The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed Grant's ruling, in a decision relying on the US Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell, which afforded equal rights to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

'Under Mississippi law, an anonymous sperm donor does not possess any parental right,' Justice David Ishee wrote for the high court. 'As for Christina's parental rights&we reverse the chancery court finding that Christina acted in loco parentis but was not an equal parent with parental rights to Z.S. [Zayden].'

The justices then sent the case back to a trial court for final disposition.

Strickland called the decision a 'great day.'

'It is a relief that my status as a parent in my son's life can never be questioned or stripped away,' she said.

Lambda Legal Counsel Beth Littrell, who represented Strickland, praised the decision.

'Today's ruling is confirmation for thousands of married couples in Mississippi who know that the love, care, and responsibility that comes with being a mom or dad goes far beyond the blood relationship of an anonymous sperm donor,' she said.

'The Court recognized that marriage equality is the law of the land in Mississippi. No matter the gender of your spouse, all married couples and their children now receive the same respect for their parent-child relationships when they bring children into their families through reproductive technology.'

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