Two moms. Two sons. No rights.
Erin Porterfield and Kristin Williams are two lesbian moms from Omaha, Nebraska, who are seeking to be recognized as legal parents of their two children.
While in a relationship, they each gave birth to a child, but now separated and have never married, the couple finds themselves with no parental rights for one another’s child.
“We were never able to marry because, by the time the supreme court had awarded that right to gay people, we had split as a couple,” Williams tells 6 News. “We continued to care for both of our children as any couple would with shared custody.”
Both women currently have in loco parentis. It means they have a temporary legal acknowledgment of their roles as parents of the other’s child.
Full parental rights would empower both parties with equal decision-making power in a variety of areas like medical care, education, inheritance, etc...
It is important to know that in the same circumstances, a man can ask for an acknowledgment of paternity to get parental rights on the children from his former partner.
When Erin and Kristin tried to get the same recognition, The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) denied their request to legally be recognized as parents of both children.
They explained in a letter that “at this time, the only routes to legal parentage under Nebraska law are through marital presumption, adoption, or biological relationship.”
Angela Dunne, managing partner at Koenig-Dunne.
“If you had a man and a woman in this exact same scenario, not together anymore, never married, do not want to get married, so we don’t have adoption available to them, all the man needs to do is go and sign an acknowledgment of paternity, and he gets put onto the birth certificate, and it is a legal order then that he is a parent. Erin and Kristin can’t do that because they’re women,” says Angela Dunne, a managing partner at Koenig-Dunne that represents both mothers along with the ACLU of Nebraska.
Sara Rips, ACLU of Nebraska Legal & Policy Counsel.
“This civil rights case is about equal treatment for families with same-sex parents,” Sara Rips, ACLU of Nebraska Legal & Policy Counsel, added.
“Erin and Kristin made the choice together to start and raise a family. They have both been loving and involved moms to these boys since birth. I know that if one of them were a man, the department would have accepted their acknowledgment without any thought or inquiry. Instead, these women are facing discriminatory treatment that’s clearly unconstitutional.
“Once again, LGBTQ Nebraskans must appeal to the courts to affirm that they are entitled to the same treatment as anyone else.”
A legal battle to recognize parental rights for same-sex couples in Nebraska
Now both moms are suing Nebraska DHHS. The lawsuit is arguing that refusing to equally apply Nebraska law for same-sex parents as they do opposite-sex ones violates their constitutional rights.
“That ongoing pursuit and denial by health and human services are puzzling. An organization set up to maximize the safety and protection of kids is doing the opposite. It’s leaving our kids vulnerable,” Erin says.
“I want the end result to be care, safety, security for our kids and by way of that, documenting us both as parents will do that, it will be a precedent not only for them and their care, it will be a peace of mind for me as a parent, and for her as a parent,” she added. “But ongoing for other people in our situation, they also will have firmness and security to make sure their rights and responsibilities as family members documented is present.”
Stay tuned for more updates on these two brave women who want nothing less than equality for their family.