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A Win for Same-Sex De Facto Parents in Maryland

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The LGBT community in Maryland is praising the state's high court, saying it protects parent-child relationships. (Jeremy Womack)
The LGBT community in Maryland is praising the state's high court, saying it protects parent-child relationships. (Jeremy Womack)
July 11, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The LGBT community in Maryland is celebrating a decision last week by the state's highest court. It ruled unanimously in favor of recognizing the status of parents who lack a biological or adoptive relationship with their children. The case centered around Michael Conover, a transgender man who had a child with his same-sex partner through artificial insemination. The couple raised the boy together for two years, then Conover was denied visitation after his relationship with his partner ended.

Conover's attorney, FreeState Justice deputy director and managing attorney Jer Welter, said it means "de facto" parents now have the legal standing to seek custody and visitation rights.

"It establishes precedence throughout Maryland, and I think it causes Maryland certainly to join a trend in states across the country that we certainly hope that other states as well will follow," he said.

A trial court had ruled that Conover was a legal stranger to the boy because he lacked a biological or adoptive relationship with him. Maryland's Court of Special Appeals upheld that decision, but last week the Maryland Court of Appeals overruled the lower court.

Welter said Maryland is very progressive in some LGBT issues, but there's still work to be done.

"In family law and protection of parents' relationships with their children, Maryland has lagged behind some states that one would think of as being much more conservative on these issues," he said.

In the 36-page Court of Appeals opinion, written by Judge Sally Adkins, the court ruled that de facto parenthood is a viable means to establish standing to contest custody or visitation.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD