In a case that is extremely worrisome for LGBTQ+ advocates, an Oklahoma judge has stripped a lesbian mother of her parental rights and instead granted them to her child’s sperm donor.
Oklahoma County District Judge Lynn McGuire ruled on Monday that Kris Williams no longer has legal rights over her son after divorcing her now ex-wife Rebekah Wilson. Wilson and Williams conceived their son together after finding sperm donor Harlan Vaughn on a paternity website. They got married while Wilson was pregnant.
They’re cute and in love.
After the couple’s contentious divorce, the judge made the decision to strip Williams of custody because Wilson was the one who gave birth to the couple’s son and Williams never formally adopted him. But typically, when a child is born to a married couple, both members of the couple become the presumed legal parents.
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In this scenario, the judge ruled that was not the case because Oklahoma’s parentage act was created in 2014, one year before the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide in 2015. As such, McGuire decided it was not clear that the law protected same-sex couples. She granted custody rights to Wilson and Vaughn.
Wilson and the child had also moved in with Vaughn after Wilson accused Williams of being verbally abusive, saying she wanted to strip Williams of custody for their son’s safety. Williams denies the abuse allegations and also says they have nothing to do with whether she is her son’s legal parent.
“I don’t feel like we should have to adopt our own children,” Williams told 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 2.”
Wilson and Vaughn wrote to the publication, “We remain focused exclusively on our child’s protection and well-being. We are grateful for the court’s validation.”
A protective order currently bars Williams from any contact with her son.
After the judge stripped Williams of custody rights, her lawyer, Robyn Hopkins, said she is “disappointed to be an Oklahoman.”
“I feel like this is our community’s cry for help and we need all hands on deck. I’m comparing it to a natural disaster.” Hopkins said they are planning to appeal.
LGBTQ+ advocates are terrified of the precedent this case could set and say it demonstrates that marriage equality has failed to place LGBTQ+ parents on a level playing field with cis-hetero parents.