November 8, 2013

Court grants parental rights to lesbian egg donor

In a move that could have far-reaching effects and establish legal precedents in Michigan and other states, a state Supreme Court ruled in favor of a woman who donated an egg cell which was used to artificially inseminate her partner, with the two women separating after the child’s birth. There was disagreement on whether state laws prohibit anonymous egg or sperm donors from claiming child custody or parental rights. The court was divided, but ultimately handed down a 4-3 ruling.

The court’s majority opinion found that preventing the donor from interacting with and helping to care for the child would effectively violate the woman’s constitutionally guaranteed rights of equal protection and due process. It continued to explain that the donor adequately showed dedication to caring for her child.

The three dissenting Justices countered the majority using a similar argument. The Justice who penned the opinion asserted that giving the donor parental rights would constitute a violation of the other woman’s rights to privacy and due process.

The dissenting Justices noted that a child’s birth mother is typically granted automatic parental rights. The opinion continued to argue that the ruling does not preclude the donor from having her own child in the future and thus does not violate any parental privileges, though court documents suggest the donor could have been impregnated with the egg cell because she was infertile.

The donor’s case was supported by briefs from Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations.

While this dispute occurred outside of Michigan, it serves as a potent reminder of how complex the law can be, especially regarding the increasing prevalence of same sex couples marrying and raising children. This makes it crucial for one preparing for such a dispute to have sophisticated knowledge of their states’ court systems.

Source:  Orlando Sentinel, “Lesbian egg donor in Brevard parental-rights dispute gets support from Florida high court” Jim Saunders, Nov. 08, 2013