The Ohio Supreme Court voted on Tuesday that a lesbian who shared parenting responsibilities for her partner’s biological daughter is not entitled to parental rights now that the relationship has ended. Michele Hobbs filed the lawsuit against her former partner Kelly Mullen in regards to Mullen’s biological daughter Lucy whom the couple had raised together since her birth.
According to the court in a majority opinion submitted by Justices Robert Cupp, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Terrence O’Donnell and Judith Ann Lanzinger, “the evidence did show that Mullen consistently refused to enter into or sign any formal shared custody agreement when presented with the opportunity to do so” and that a key factor is that ruling was that “although Mullen and Hobbs had shared responsibilities for the child, Mullen had not agreed to permanently cede partial custody.”
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justice Yvette McGee Brown disagreed, as did Justice Paul E. Pfeifer who issued a separate dissenting opinion. In his opinion Pfeifer stated, “The law has not caught up to our culture, and this court has failed to craft a rule that addresses reality … A maternal relationship existed between Hobbs and Lucy. Mullen taught her daughter to call another woman ‘Momma’ and to love her as a mother. She now wishes she hadn’t, and for the majority, that’s enough. It shouldn’t be.”
A statement from Equality Ohio says, “Equality Ohio is saddened when the lack of legal rights granted to same-sex couples in Ohio is used by a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to obtain personal advantage. As Justice Pfiefer wrote: “Mullen was able to use the law as a weapon because same-sex coparents lack legal rights.” This case highlights the need for same-sex couples and their families to be treated equally under Ohio law. ” The case also could set precedence in any custody case involving a non-biological parent.