The Washington State Supreme Court has overturned a ban on a lesbian mother coming out to her children.
Rachelle Black asked her husband Charles for a divorce in 2011 after 20 years of marriage. She did so because she admitted that she was a lesbian. He was a devout Christian and their three sons attended a private religious school.
In the couple’s divorce hearing, Charles was awarded primary custody of the children. However, in a highly unusual move, the court also banned Ms Black from telling her sons about her sexual orientation. The Judge said the woman’s “lifestyle choice” conflicted with the religious upbringing of her children.
She was told she could not have any “conversations with the children regarding religion, homosexuality, or other alternative lifestyle concepts” or behave in a way which “could reasonably be interpreted as being related to those topics”. Such behaviours included “exposing the children to literature or electronic media; taking them to movies or events; providing them with symbolic clothing or jewelry [sic]” supportive of LGBT rights.
After a six year legal struggle, this ban has now been declared unconstitutional by the highest judicial authority in the north-western state. The Supreme Court ruled that the original trial had displayed “improper bias” in the way it approached the case. Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst explained that the lower court had not “approached the parenting plan with an attitude of neutrality regarding sexual orientation that fairness demands”.
During the latest hearing, a therapist told the court that Ms Black’s second son had said he would love her “no matter what” and had previously asked to wear a rainbow bracelet of hers which had “Love and Pride” printed on it.
The mother’s lawyer welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision and hoped it would “send a strong message to other courts: discrimination against LGBTQ parents has no place in the courtroom”.
Photo of the Temple of Justice, home of the State Supreme Court in Olympia, Washington, by Harvey Barrison via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.