An important gay rights case has come down in Florida.  It involves a lesbian couple that lived together for eleven years, shared bank accounts and income, and raised a child, who is now eight.  A case based on some similar facts has already been decided in California.

The biological mother, who goes by the name of Tina, had her egg fertilized with donor sperm that was implanted into her partner’s womb.  But then their romance fell apart when the child was two.  And the Florida courts had to decide who would be the legal parent:  the biological mother or the birth mother who carried the unrelated child for nine months in her womb.

Initially, citing Florida law, the trial court summarily decided with Tina’s ex partner.  But on December 23rd of last year, a state appeals court rejected the law as antiquated and recognized both women as legal parents.  Citing the case as “unique,” the 5th District Court of Appeal ruled that both the U.S. and Florida constitutions trumped Florida’s law.

As it stands, the birth mother has asked for a stay of biological mom’s rights, and the case will most assuredly proceed to the Florida Supreme Court, and, quite possibly the U.S. Supreme Court.

The plight of both women and their young daughter highlights the murky laws that surround same-sex families, especially in states, such as Florida, that do not recognize gay marriage.  Although they acted to the world as a committed couple, one thing that might have helped Tina avoid giving rights to the non-biological mother was if she had first gone to a lawyer to get surrogacy paperwork.

In reaching its decision, the appellate court considered this to be a moral, ethical, and legal issue, and it recognized the intent of the parties to deliberately bring a child into the world and to raise her together.  The court ruled that the problem with the Florida law was that it provided no distinction between biological and birth mother and it had not caught up with science or the state of same-sex marriages.