In Oklahoma a judge recently ruled that the parental rights of a lesbian woman are terminated, with those rights going to the child’s sperm donor. The woman, Kris Williams, had a child with her now ex-partner, Rebekah Wilson. The couple found a sperm donor together, and Wilson carried the child to term. During the pregnancy, Williams and Wilson got married.
Two years after the birth of their child, the couple split and Wilson moved in with Harlan Vaughn, the couple’s sperm donor. Married couples are generally presumed to be the parents of any child born during the marriage, but some states have different laws in this area.
Oklahoma requires the non-biological parent of a same-sex union to formally adopt the child. Since Williams didn’t do that, a judge removed her name from the child’s birth certificate.
Williams has fought against the change and had her name reinstated, but her parental rights remained in question until mid-February. At that time, a judge ruled that the parentage act in Oklahoma predated marriage equality, and so it didn’t apply to a same-sex couple. The rights that Williams once believed she had to her child reverted to the sperm donor. Williams and her attorney plan to appeal right away.
Another issue in this case is that Wilson and Vaughn are saying that Williams was violent to Wilson during their marriage, and Wilson has gotten a restraining order. That order has been extended once, and is still in force. Williams’ attorney, Robyn Hopkins, says she is disappointed in Oklahoma and its ruling, along with its lack of protection for same-sex parents.
There could be many impacts for marriage equality that go beyond just what happens in Oklahoma, as other states are watching the case closely. The federal ruling is that a married couple are presumed to be the parents of a child born during that marriage, and that applied to same-sex couples, as well.
But each state has some variation in their laws, and Oklahoma has taken a stance on it that could put the rights of other same-sex parents at risk for the future. Williams’ appeal may take some time to decide.
Stepparent adoption is a great way to ensure the rights of both parties raising the child. While a non-biological/non-gestational parent may already appear on the child’s birth certificate, they may lack protection if their marital rights are not universally recognized. A valid, final adoption order creates permanence and security both for the adopting parent as well as the child. Contact us today to learn more!