BOSTON (CBS/AP) — The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that an unmarried gay woman whose former girlfriend gave birth to two children through in vitro fertilization has the same parental rights as their biological mother.
Julie Gallagher gave birth to the children, and her former partner, Karen Partanen, has helped raise them.
After the couple split, Partanen wanted to be declared a full legal parent.
“The two children in this case, like all children, deserve equal consideration under the law, whatever the circumstances of their birth,” Partanen’s attorney Mary Bonauto said.
A family court judge dismissed Partanen’s request, finding that she didn’t meet the requirements under state law because she and Gallagher were not married when the children were born, and Partanen is not a biological parent.
Gallagher said then that she was challenging Partanen’s bid to be declared a full legal parent, which would allow her to share in virtually every decision made about the children.
“I am a biological mother. I wanted to have children. They’re my world, and it’s my right to make legal decisions for them,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher’s lawyer argued that Partanen was trying to obtain legal rights she would be entitled to only if she had married Gallagher, adopted the children or filed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity.
The Supreme Judicial Court overturned that ruling Tuesday, finding that a person may establish themselves as a child’s presumptive parent under state law, even without a biological relationship with the child.
More than 35 states confer parentage on spouses who consent to assisted reproductive technology, as Partanen did. Seven of those states and the District of Columbia give legal parentage to the person who consents to the procedure with the intent to parent the resulting child, without regard to marital status, according to fertility associations and attorneys who submitted written arguments supporting Partanen.
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WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports