Major Blow to LGBTQ Rights: Lesbian Mother Just Lost Her Parenting Rights to Child’s Sperm Donor
It's getting worse.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade and the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and laws have made the current state of queer rights unstable. Unfortunately, news coming out of a family law case in Oklahoma has only made it worse. Kris Williams was married to and had a child with her then-wife Rebekah Wilson, via a sperm donor. Wilson was the biological mother, but Williams was put on the birth certificate as the second parent.
Birth certificates have been their own battle in the queer community, but it should be noted that previous precedent does not give a sperm donor rights to be put on the birth certificate, regardless of the sexuality of the parent.
After the marriage ended in 2021, Wilson moved herself and their child in with the sperm donor, Harlan Vaughn. Wilson and Vaughn later argued in court that Williams never adopted Wilson’s son, despite the two having been married and Williams’ name having been put on the birth certificate. Because of the lack of actual adoption, Williams was considered to not be a legal parent of her and Wilson’s child.
“I don’t feel like we should have to adopt our own children,” Williams said in an interview with The 19th. “If I was a man, then nobody could come back and you know, question whether that child was mine or not, after they’re the age of two.”
And she’s right.
In cases where men are not the biological fathers of their children, if they are the spouse of the biological mother and/or their name is on the birth certificate, then they have rights to the children they raised. I don’t want to say that this never happens to fathers, but generally, sperm donors do not have legal rights to the children they help produce. The fact that Wilson and Vaughn were able to successfully argue that Williams was not a legal parent, but Vaughn is, is worrying at the very least.
It’s also highly unlikely they would stop there. This could be used against parents who use surrogates, against single mothers, against divorced parents, against anyone who doesn’t fit into the nuclear family mold the courts seem determined to force people to fit.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma Judge Lynne McGuire sided with the biological parents and stripped Williams of all her parental rights, going so far as to issue a new birth certificate with Vaughn in Williams’ place. This is the worst fear for a lot of queer families; the fear that we do not have the right to be married, to have children, to have families of our own—the fear that the families we have made for ourselves can be taken from us by institutionalized homophobia and transphobia.
Obviously, this is just in Oklahoma, and this case will not necessarily affect cases around the country. However, if a case like this goes up to the U.S. Supreme Court, then it could easily have nationwide implications for the futures of queer families.
That’s not to say there is no hope.
Nevada created a state law that’s basically the Equal Rights Amendment, which protects queer rights such as “transgender people having their identity protected.”
There are also organizations like the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the LGBTQ+ Bar, the ACLU, and the HRC that are working to codify the rights of LGBTQ+ people all over the country. We have to be vigilant and organized. It’s the only way we’ll be able to keep ourselves and our families safe.
If you want to learn more about getting involved, I suggest donating to some of the organizations above or following this link to learn more about allyship and activism. If you want to learn more about the Legal Recognition of LGBTQ Families, then here’s the link for you.
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