- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Supreme Court refused yesterday to block a lesbian from seeking parental rights to a child she had helped raise with her partner.

Justices could have used the case to clarify the rights of homosexuals in child custody disputes stemming from nontraditional families. However, they declined without comment to disturb a ruling of Washington state’s highest court that said Sue Ellen Carvin could pursue ties to the girl as a “de facto parent.” The girl is now 11.

Lawyers for the girl’s biological mother, Page Britain, told justices that the state court decision in this case and others across the country “pave the way for children to have an unlimited and ever-changing number of parents.”

Miss Carvin’s attorneys had said the court has never agreed to hear a case involving parenting or visitation disputes arising from same-sex relationships, a recognition “that state courts can best provide the case-by-case attention these matters require.”

Miss Carvin and Miss Britain lived together for five years before they decided to become parents. Miss Britain was artificially inseminated and gave birth in 1995 to the daughter, known as L.B. in court papers. The girl called Miss Carvin “Mama” and Miss Britain “Mommy.”

The couple broke up in 2001 and the following year, when the girl was 7, Miss Carvin was barred from seeing her. After Miss Carvin went to court, Miss Britain married the sperm donor. Justices were told that the father lives in Thailand.

The court’s action does not end the case. Miss Carvin must now prove that she is a “de facto parent” defined by the state court as someone who though not legally recognized, functions as a child’s actual parent.

The case depicts a nasty battle between the two women. Miss Britain says she wanted to have the girl baptized in the Catholic Church and that her former partner wanted to take L.B. to a Buddhist temple.

Miss Carvin contends she was the active parent.

One of Miss Britain’s lawyers said yesterday that the Supreme Court should provide direction to lower courts.

“This is becoming a huge can of worms when courts do not follow the more conventional lines of parental rights,” said Jordan Lorence, senior vice president for the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based group that has fought same-sex “marriage.”

In other action, the court yesterday:

• Said it would decide whether old cases are affected by a 2-year-old ruling reiterating that the Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right to confront accusers.

• Refused to consider whether the state of New York owed an Indian tribe about $250 million in a dispute over the seizure of tribal land.

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