This is why gay and lesbian couples should be afforded the same legal marital rights as heterosexual couples.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Minneapolis woman should have visitation rights with the two children she and her now-estranged lesbian partner adopted when they were still a couple.
Nancy SooHoo had faced losing all contact with the 11- and 6-year-old girls, whom she said still call her “mommy,” and her attorney said the court’s decision is good news for gay parents who have struggled for legal parental rights.
SooHoo and Marilyn Johnson had been a couple for almost two decades when they adopted the infant girls from China in 1997 and 2001, but Johnson became the sole legal guardian because the Chinese government wouldn’t allow gay couples to adopt.
When the couple split in 2004, Johnson was left as the only legal parent of both girls.
Yes, Ms. SooHoo will still get to see her kids. No, even though she and Ms. Johnson adopted the children together after having been “a couple” for “two decades”, a legal technicality means Ms. SooHoo doesn’t actually get joint custody. She’s not, in the eyes of the courts or the law, their mother.
Yes, divorce is ugly, even moreso when there are children involved. But even though the divorce rate is reportedly down from a peak in the early-80’s, it still seems to be that around 40% of first-time (need I even state that these are only heterosexual?) marriages end in divorce. The courts would never think to consider one of the adults in those families not legally a parent to their children, even if the children had been adopted. Not one, not ever.
Because marriage and civil union is not legal for most of the country, there are no similar statistics for gay and lesbian families, but the law of averages being what it is, my guess is that it’s about the same. It might even be lower because of the strength of will and determination it takes in many areas of the country to declare yourself married to someone of the same sex – arguably you’d think about jumping into a gay or lesbian marriage maybe a little harder than it seems some heterosexual couples think about it – but again, no statistics, so all we can do is speculate. (I won’t even really go off on the whole “if it were recognized, we could actually track things like this and make decisions based on *gasp* actual data” line..)