Lesbian Mom Secures Parental Rights In Illinois—But The Fight Goes On In Other States

Ashlie Judd was listed as the parent on her daughter’s birth certificate, but it took a court ruling to establish her parental rights.

Late last week, an Illinois appeals court ruled in her favor, affirming the rights of both hers and other same-sex non-biological parents in the state.

The case dates back to 2014 when Judd and her ex-wife Dee Baron-Judd brought a daughter into their family. According to court documents, the couple selected a sperm donor together who would reflect Judd’s physical appearance, jointly paid for fertility treatments, held a baby shower together, and welcomed their daughter in the hospital. (Baron-Judd is the biological mother.)

Seven months later, however, the couple separated. Baron-Judd then sought to block Judd from seeing their daughter.

According to the ruling, Baron-Judd testified that “because she had been under the influence of medication, Dee did not recall jointly filling out [the baby’s] birth certificate, which listed Ashlie as a co-parent.”

The court, however, ruled that Judd had a legitimate established relationship with the child and she was also a parent.

Judd is the second LGBTQ parent in recent weeks to win a court ruling affirming her parental rights in what advocates anticipate will be an arduous state-by-state battle to solidify protections for non-biological parents.

Many LGBTQ people assume that like straight couples, they will be afforded the same rights when married. A child born to a married couple becomes the legal child of both parents. LGBTQ rights advocates say while the law mandates parental rights, courts may not recognize same-sex non-biological parents the way they do heterosexual parents.

Last Month, a lesbian parent in Mississippi won her parental rights in a similar but bizarre case. In that suit, a trial court had previously ruled that Chris Strickland’s parental rights were superseded by an anonymous sperm donor after her ex-wife attempted to block her from seeing their two sons. Strickland ultimately won.

But Camilla Taylor, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal, said LGBTQ people should at least take comfort in the fact in the fact that courts are beginning to rule in favor of non-biological parents on such cases, a marked improved from just a few years ago.

“People take it for granted that if a husband and wife have difficulty getting pregnant and use reproductive technology, that the husband is the father of the child, regardless of whether he has a biological connection,” Taylor said. “It’s our challenge to overcome this bias and to help courts understand that biology and parentage are not necessarily coextensive.”

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Kate Sosin 

Kate Sosin is a trans news and features reporter and former associate editor of Chicago’s Windy City Times.

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