An Oklahoma judge has vacated a ruling that took a lesbian mom’s name off her son’s birth certificate, replacing it with the child’s sperm donor.
County District Judge Lynne McGuire ruled June 1 that Kris Williams would remain on her son’s birth certificate, Williams’ lawyer Robyn Hopkins confirmed. The order does not guarantee Williams parental rights, which will be decided at a court date in August. In the previous ruling, McGuire suggested that Williams forfeited her parental rights because she failed to adopt her son.
McGuire made her initial ruling at a hearing on Williams’ divorce from her wife, Rebekah Wilson. Williams and Wilson decided to have their son together while legally married, according to Williams, with Wilson carrying the baby. In a January hearing, Williams was ordered struck from her son’s birth certificate. In her place would go the couple’s sperm donor.
Wilson has publicly accused Williams of verbally abusing her and stated that her efforts to block Williams from seeing their son are for his safety. Williams denies abusing either party. Wilson and the couple’s sperm donor, Harlan Vaughn, have jointly petitioned for custody of the child.
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Wilson has declined requests from The 19th to comment. Her attorney, Rachel Stoddard Morris, also declined a request for an interview, citing the ongoing litigation. Vaughn did not respond to a request to comment.
Williams’ case sent shockwaves throughout LGBTQ+ legal circles, where many assumed that married same-sex couples who had children while together would be presumed to be parents of those children. In most states, married couples who have children together are both presumed parents, even in cases where donor sperm or eggs are used. That’s not the case in every state, however, and Oklahoma lacks definitive case law.
The case is seen as potentially precedent-setting in Oklahoma and beyond. LGBTQ+ advocates say it represents a worst-case scenario for queer parents still testing out if marriage rights will afford LGBTQ+ couples the full benefits of equal protection under the law.
In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that states must treat LGBTQ+ married couples as they would heterosexual couples when assigning parental rights. However, laws can vary from state to state, regardless of a parent’s gender. Advocates say that reality unfairly burdens queer couples who disproportionately build families with donors.
The ACLU had vowed to engage in legal action to protect LGBTQ+ parental rights if Williams’ appeal was not successful.
Even if Williams is successful in the parental rights case, it is unlikely she will see her son anytime soon. McGuire has granted Wilson and the child a victim protection order, barring Williams from seeing either for five years. The order stems from undisclosed abuse allegations that have not been released publicly.
Williams said her other son, who is 15, misses his brother.
“I am tired of watching my teenager watch me suffer,” Williams said.