An Alabama lesbian mother has been denied joint custody or any visitation rights as the adoptive parent of three children she has co-parented from their birth. Assisted by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, she is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse that ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court.
The children, now 13 and 11, are not permitted any contact with their co-mother.
V.L, as she is named in court papers, had a 16-year relationship with E.L., during which time they decided to have children through artificial insemination. With E.L. as the biological mother, they had one child in 2002 and twins in 2004.
Not able to marry to protect V.L.’s parental rights, the couple moved briefly from Alabama to Georgia, where there was some possibility of a second-parent adoption. There, in 2007, V.L. and E.L. were both legally acknowledged as the children’s parents.
The couple returned to Alabama but split up in 2011. V.L. attempted to gain joint custody after the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationally.
Same-sex marriage has been explicitly illegal in Alabama, beginning with a 1996 gubernatorial executive order. That ban was reinforced by a 1998 legislative bill and a 2006 “anti-gay marriage” state constitutional amendment. Alabama did not recognize same-sex marriages from other states. None of these orders or laws have been repealed by Alabama.
The NCLR petition to the U.S. Supreme Court pointed to the agony of V.L.’s separation from her children as showing limitations in what federal same-sex marriage could accomplish.
The petition also stated, “There was reason for concern about the [Alabama] court’s motivations.” (Washington Post, Nov. 16)
Undoubtedly true, given that this Alabama Supreme Court ordered all county judges in the state to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Alabama’s chief justice, Roy Moore, has close ties to a virulently right-wing national movement hell-bent on instituting a Christians-only theocratic legal standard in the U.S. This movement is advancing a new tactic of so-called “religious liberty” for public officials — actually an attempt to abolish secular law and the separation of church and state.
In 2004, Moore authored the Constitution Restoration Act, introduced as a bill into the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, which aimed “to take out of federal court jurisdiction cases that involved public officials that acknowledged God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government, and provided for the impeachment of federal judges who disregarded the act.” (YuricaReport.com)
Bankrolled by superrich donors like the Wilks brothers, who made their billions selling fracking technology, the “Christian-dominion” movement paid for the legal team that backed up Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. Davis continues to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples and yet retains her job, with the blessing of newly elected Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin. (ChristianToday, Nov. 6)
The Christian-nation movement is rabidly racist, anti-Muslim and anti-woman in addition to being violently anti-lesbian, anti-gay, anti-bisexual and anti-trans*. (Trans* is a word currently used with an asterisk to indicate the spectrum of all the different sexes and genders of people who do not conform to the either/or of male/female or masculine/feminine.)
In a 2002 decision against another Alabama lesbian mother, Moore essentially authorized imprisonment and the death penalty against LGBTQ people. He organized a successful campaign to keep the requirement for segregated schools in the Alabama state constitution, where it remains to this day. Moore attempted to bar the first Muslim elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from taking office. (WorldNetDaily, Dec. 13, 2006)
These vicious positions cannot be minimized by stereotypical explanations of “backwater judge” or “backward state.”