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MA High Court Grants Parental Rights to Separated Same-Sex Parents

Massachusetts+Supreme+Judicial+Court+ruled+in+favor+of+granting+parental+rights+to+separated+same-sex+parents+on+Oct.+4.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of granting parental rights to separated same-sex parents on Oct. 4.

On Oct. 4, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court handed down a ruling that could influence how parenthood will be defined legally in the future. In its decision, the court granted parental rights to Karen Partanen, the non-biological and non-married mother of children she raised with ex-partner Julie Gallagher. The two had been in a committed 10-year long same-sex relationship until three years ago. Many gay-rights advocates laud this decision as important in giving non-traditional families more legal rights and giving them opportunities in childcare more equal to those of heterosexual couples.
In the case of Partanen v. Gallagher, the former fought to receive the same parental rights as her ex-partner (Gallagher), who gave birth to their two children using artificial insemination. Even though both parents raised the children together, Burlington-native Partanen did not have full parental rights because the couple never married, and it was Gallagher who gave birth both times. The court’s unanimous decision to give Partanen full legal parental rights was based on the fact that she was actively involved in the children’s upbringing.
Therefore, a woman or man can claim parental rights even if they are not the biological parent or they have never been married to the other parent. This verdict is an example of how the legal system has to adapt to the changing composition of American families in our modern times. While it might often be met with challenges, the courts can also create new opportunities and rights for newer demographics by interpreting laws in the changing context of modern American society.
Previously, a family court refuted Partanen’s claim that she should be given equal parental rights as her former partner on the grounds that is was in violation of state law, as she was neither the biological parent of the children and had never been married to Gallagher. Partanen brought this decision to the High Court in an attempt to overturn the ruling.
After the MA Supreme Court reached the verdict in favor of Partanen, the latter told reporters that “the decision is that my children have two parents; they have me as mommy and they have Julie as mama.”
It is not known yet whether Gallagher will fight the court’s ruling and work to have it overturned, or if the couple will reach a settlement to raise the children under joint custody in a lower court.