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Woman fighting for child custody after gay partnership dissolves

A former resident of York County, Pennsylvania, is working through a high-stakes child custody battle that could determine future rights for gay parents. The woman, age 32, left York in 2008 and formed a domestic partnership with another woman in California in 2009. She is now fighting for child custody rights for her two children, though she is experiencing some difficulty because she is not a biological parent.

The case is garnering attention from gay rights activists, who say that Pennsylvania law does not provide enough guidance for legal custody. The woman says she thinks she is being targeted because she left her relationship when one of the children was very young. It is unlikely that she is receiving the same treatment in court as a biological father would, simply because she was a member of a gay partnership.

Reports show that the woman and her partner obtained legally recognized status in 2009 in California. Shortly thereafter, they chose to have a child through artificial insemination. The woman was listed as a parent on that birth certificate. However, when the couple moved back to Pennsylvania and the partner gave birth to another child, the woman could not be listed on that birth certificate because of state law. Shortly thereafter, the couple's relationship started to deteriorate.

The woman in this case was given some temporary custody rights, but she was ultimately denied any custody with the youngest child, and she is only allowed two days' worth of visitation every five weeks with the older girl. That limited visitation was dictated even though her name is on the child's birth certificate, and the woman said the order was devastating.

Same-sex parents in Pennsylvania and other states are struggling to work within a system that is designed for straight couples. Biological parenthood and adoptive parent rules for same-sex couples vary widely throughout the nation. The rights afforded to gay couples in one state may not be available in others, as we see in this example.

Source: York Dispatch, "Former Yorker embroiled in same-sex custody battle" Christina Kauffman, May. 07, 2014

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