A lesbian mother in Alabama filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, asking it to review her case after state judges ruled she has no legal parental rights over the children she says she helped raise.
The woman, known in court filings by her initials V.L, petitioned the high court to step in after the Alabama Supreme Court held that she was not the legal parent to the three children she shares with her ex-partner (who gave birth to them by artificial insemination).
The court also held that she had no visitation rights now that the two adults, who never legally married, had split after a 16-year-relationship. The pair had temporarily moved to Georgia where they believed the state would be more open to granting parental rights to both of them.
The Alabama justices said, "Georgia law makes no provision for a non-spouse to adopt a child without first terminating the parental rights of the current parents."
While the Georgia court did recognize those rights, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Georgia essentially broke its own laws by recognizing them and that subsequently the suing partner has no legal parental rights.
Cathy Sakimura, of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, called the Alabama decision "terrifying" and said it illustrates the continued legal challenges facing gay and lesbian parents. She said the Alabama court had no legal authority to second-guess the decision of the Georgia court that had granted the adoption.
"As a result of that serious constitutional violation, the children in this case have been wrongly separated from one of their parents, and the stability of adoption judgments across the country has been called into question," Sakimura said.
Sakimura said her client helped raise the children, now ages 10 to 12, since their births, but isn't allowed to see the children because of the court decision.
Her ex-partner fought her visitation saying the couple lived in Alabama, but only rented a home in Georgia because they believed the court there to be friendlier to adoption petitions by gay couples.
The case will go to Justice Thomas, who can decide alone or refer to the full Court for a decision. It was considered likely he’ll ask the other side to provide a response before a ruling.
The Alabama Supreme Court earlier this year directed probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples even though a federal judge ruled the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. The directive brought a stop to the weddings until the U.S. Supreme Court said gay and lesbian people have a fundamental right to marry.
Fox News' Shannon Bream and The Associated Press contributed to this report.