Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Judge Grants parental rights to lesbian partner in Oregon

Judge gives parental rights to lesbian partner
Posted by The Oregonian July 16, 2007 13:48PM
Categories: Breaking News
A Multnomah County judge has ruled that the lesbian partner of a Portland mother is entitled to legal parental status.

"This decision is a tremendous win for Oregon's families, our children and our basic Oregon value of fairness," said John Hummel, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, the state's largest gay rights groups.

The ruling follows two major victories for gay rights supporters this spring when the Legislature approved laws banning discrimination against gays in work and housing and giving same-sex couples most state benefits of marriage through legal domestic partnerships.

Jeana Frazzini, 34, sued the state last year after her name was stricken from the birth certificate of a baby delivered by her lesbian partner, K.D. Parman, 32.

Married fathers, even those whose wives become pregnant through artificial insemination as Parman did, automatically get legal parental rights. The couple argued they were unfairly denied that privilege because of their inability to marry.

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric J. Bloch ruled Friday in the couple's favor. He wrote that the state Constitution bars denying rights to one class of citizen that are given to another. He also said the domestic partnership law, which takes effect Jan. 1, will solve the inequity for Frazzini, Parman and their two children.

But opponents are challenging the domestic partnership law by collecting signatures to refer it to voters in the November 2008 election. A group called Defense of Marriage and Family, AGAIN! and its supporters have distributed thousands of petitions statewide. Marylin Shannon of Brooks, a former Republican state senator and spokeswoman for the group's chief petitioners, questioned the judge's decision.

"The judge reached way out there," she said. "(Frazzini and Parman) have a remedy. All they have to do is adopt the child."

Her group must collect 55,179 signatures by Sept. 26 to refer the law to the ballot. If they succeed, the law will be suspended until the November election.

If voters reject the law, then Frazzini will be left without the parental status the court ruled she is entitled to. It is unclear what happens then, said Mark Johnson, an attorney helping defend Frazzini and Parman, during a news conference Monday.

For now, the partners, who have been together 10 years, said their court victory gives them a lift.

"We're finally on the road to having legal recognition for the whole family," said Frazzini, holding their 1-year-old son, Griffin. "When you have kids, you want to do everything in your power to care for them and keep them safe."

- Bill Graves

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