Monday, February 22, 2010

US Supreme Court lets stand California court ruling on nonbio mom's parentage

Last June I posted on a spectacular ruling by the California Court of Appeal in the case of Charisma R. v. Kristina S. The court ruled that the nonbio mom, Charisma, was a parent, based on the couple's joint planning for the child and the fact that the couple brought the child into their home together and held the child out as the child of both of them. It therefore treated the dispute between the two women as a dispute between two parents, rejecting Kristina's claim that she had a constitutional right to raise her child free from interference from Charisma.

The biological mother in the case was represented by the right-wing legal group Liberty Counsel. After the California Supreme Court declined discretionary review of the Court of Appeal ruling, Liberty Counsel filed a petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, asking the Court to find that Kristina's constitutional right to raise her child was infringed by California order. Today, the US Supreme Court declined to hear the case. In a press release praising the denial of cert, Cathy Sakimura of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, points out that Charisma would not have been able to pursue her rights without the free legal assistance provided by NCLR and its partner attorneys.

A denial of cert has no precedential value. In other words, it cannot be cited for the proposition that acknowledging the parentage of a nonbiological mother is definitively constitutional. Still, the California opinion in Charisma R. contains the clearest and most comprehensive analysis of why US Supreme Court cases on parental rights do not foreclose Charisma's parentage and actually protect a person designated as a parent under state law as Charisma was in this case. The cert denial can't help but add the tiniest bit of "oomph" to any citation of the case in other states.

2 comments:

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