Biological Mom Kept from Child in Florida Lesbian Legal Case
(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Tina's biological daughter turned 8 this week, but she has not seen the girl since Dec. 22, 2008 because of a custody fight with her former lesbian partner. The partner is unrelated to the child, but gave birth to her.
"I thought I'd have her back on her birthday," said Tina, a law enforcement officer, whose name was never on the birth certificate and who has been denied parenting rights under Florida state law.
For 11 years, the Brevard County couple forged a committed relationship, living together, sharing their finances and raising a daughter. Tina's egg was fertilized with donor sperm and implanted in her partner's womb.
But when their romance fell apart when the child was 2, the Florida courts had to decide, who is the legal parent, the biological mother or the birth mother who carried the unrelated child for nine months in her womb?
A trial court summarily sided with Tina's ex-partner, citing Florida statute. "The judge said, 'It breaks my heart, but this is the law,'" according to the birth mother's lawyer, Robert J. Wheelock of Orlando.
But on Dec. 23, 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 trump Florida's law, according to the Orlando Sentinel, which first reported the story.
"I am elated and I am thankful," said Tina, now 41. "I am hoping things will run smoothly from this [point] forward, but it may not be the case. She is appealing and trying to keep me away from my daughter."
Court papers identify both women only by their initials. ABC News is withholding Tina's last name to protect her privacy.
Wheelock has asked for a stay of Tina's rights and said the case will surely go to the Florida Supreme Court and, he hopes, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
He would give no personal details about the birth mother, including where she is living with the child. He said she could not be available to talk to ABC News on "such short notice."
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