Lesbian Mothers, Lesbian Families: Legal Obstacles, Legal Challenges


This coming week, two women in San Francisco will enter a courtroom as open lesbians and ask a judge to grant their petition to adopt a child together. The California Department of Social Services has already recommended that the adoption be granted. The proposed new birth certificate submitted by the Department of Social Services has “mother” and “father”crossed out and instead reads “parent one” and “parent two.” For the first time, a court may confer upon a lesbian couple the legal status of joint motherhood.

I would like to use the occasion of this historic event to reflect on several separate but related issues relevant to lesbian and gay parents, our legal advocates, and the larger community of which we are a part. I am still in the process of developing and refining my ideas on these topics. I share them with you in this unfinished form.

The legal system is not friendly to lesbians and gay men. We have lost more battles in the courts than we have won, and things are likely to get worse, not better. While no formula will guarantee victory in courtroom custody disputes involving lesbian mothers or gay fathers, one thing is clear:the more we appear to be part of the mainstream, with middle class values, middle-of-the-road political beliefs, repressed sexuality, and sex-role stereo-typed behavior, the more likely we are to keep custody of our children. On the other hand, communal child-rearing arrangements, radical feminist activism, sexual experimentation – these choices are all predictably fatal to any custody action. The courtroom is no place in which to affirm our pride in our lesbian sexuality, or to advocate alternative child-rearing designed to produceĀ  strong, independent women.

Suggested Reading

In this article, I argue that, because reproductive cloning may offer the LGBTI community the chance to have genetically-related children, bans on federally funded research that would help refine and ensure the safety and efficacy of these procedures unconstitutionally deny