The Eighth District Court of Appeals in Cleveland rejected the use of Ohio’s constitutional same-sex marriage ban to prevent a lesbian mother from sharing custody of her children with her former partner.
According to Lambda Legal:
Rita Goodman and her former partner Siobhan LaPiana were in a committed relationship for 10 years. During that time the women planned and had two children. LaPiana gave birth to the children, but both women equally parented the boys, who love and rely on both of them as their mothers.
Before the birth of the first child, Goodman and LaPiana drafted and signed a parenting agreement detailing their intent to share all responsibilities of parenthood. After the couple split, LaPiana began restricting Goodman’s time with the boys.
In February 2007, Goodman filed a lawsuit, and in August, 2008, the trial court ordered visitation for Goodman. LaPiana appealed, arguing Ohio’s anti-gay constitutional amendment prevents courts from permitting former lesbian partners to share custody, and the court’s order unconstitutionally infringed on her right to autonomy as a parent. Those arguments were rejected by the court.
Ohio has three marriage bans, but the constitutional ban, as decided by voters, banned not only gay marriage but it also barred the state and local governments from recognizing anything resembling gay marriage, like domestic partnerships.
“When a [custody] dispute arises, as it did in here, courts must do what they have always done — decide what is in the best interest of the children. This is exactly what the trial court did in this case,” Judge Mary Boyle wrote in the ruling.
This decision indicates that this Ohio constitutional amendment does not come into play when deciding child custody between former same-sex partners. Both parties in this case legally agreed to parent these children from birth, and this court protected parent’s rights as well as the children’s relationships with each parent.