A lesbian mom is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to rule that she is the legal parent of a child that her ex-wife conceived through artificial insemination.
Christina Strickland and Kimberly Strickland Day married in 2009 in Massachusetts. Kimberly already had a child that she adopted in 2007, and she and Christina wanted another child.
They decided that Kimberly would be the one to get pregnant, and they used a sperm donor.
In 2015, their relationship had ended and Kimberly got married to a man and told Christina that she couldn’t see their child, Z.S., anymore. Christina sued to have Kimberly’s second marriage annulled (since the two women never divorced) and to get divorced. She sought 50-50 custody with Kimberly.
Earlier this year, a lower court judge ruled that Christina would have to pay child support and could have visitation rights, but that she wasn’t legally Z.S.’s parent.
“The court finds two women cannot conceive a child together,” county court judge John Grant wrote in his ruling. “The court doesn’t find its opinion to be a discriminatory statement, but a biological fact.”
He said that Z.S. already has two parents – Kimberly and Donor No. 2687 – so making Christina a parent would violate Donor No. 2687’s parental rights.
Grant insisted that the women should have terminated Donor No. 2687’s parental rights and that the donor’s waiver of parental rights wasn’t entered into the record in time. Even though no one knows Donor No. 2687’s identity, Grant said that Christina should have issued a public notice so that Donor No. 2687 could have asserted his parental rights if he wanted to.
In Mississippi, as in many other states, a mother’s spouse is automatically listed as a baby’s other parent on their birth certificate. But Z.S. was born before same-sex marriage was recognized in Mississippi, so while Christina was the baby’s parent in reality, legally she wasn’t.
Christina appealed Grant’s ruling to the state supreme court. Her lawyer Elizabeth Littrell argued that the fact that they weren’t considered married in Mississippi in 2011 shouldn’t matter – the law was unjust then.
“That the state was discriminating against her and this family at the time by laws that have since been struck down should not justify continued discrimination.”
She argued that the Supreme Court ruled in Pavan v. Smith that same-sex marriages have to be treated the same as opposite-sex marriages when it comes to issuing birth certificates. Since Mississippi presumes that the husbands of women who conceive through a sperm donor are the fathers of their children, it should do the same for wives.
The birth certificate isn’t about listing the people who have a genetic relationship with a newborn baby. If it were, DNA testing would be routine for mothers’ husbands since the state otherwise has no way of knowing that it wasn’t someone else’s sperm that provided half of the baby’s genetic material.
Instead, it’s about listing the people who are going to act as the baby’s parents. In this case, it’s pretty obvious that Christina and Kimberly were planning to raise the kid together, and Christina hasn’t even complained about being ordered to pay child support.
Donor No. 2687, on the other hand, hasn’t done anything to raise Z.S. and obviously didn’t want to be a father since he donated sperm anonymously.
This shouldn’t be a tough decision.