Another Loss In The Right’s Anti-Gay Legal Crusade

Over the last several months, we’ve been chronicling episodes in which Religious Right legal groups have stepped in to represent former lesbians who have decided that their former partners ought to have no access to the children they had raised together. Liberty Counsel has been active in several cases, as has the Alliance Defense Fund.

Today, the Montana Supreme Court decided another case in which the ADF was involved, regarding another custody battle involving two women who could not get married, as Montana does not grant marriage equality, and were unable to adopt children together, as state law apparently does not allow that either. One of the women, Barbara Maniaci, adopted two children and the two women raised them together for ten years until they split and Maniaci married a man and then decided that her former partner should not have access to the children.

The state Supreme Court diagreed:

The Montana Supreme Court Tuesday upheld parental rights for a Missoula woman who’d been part of a same-sex couple that cared for two adopted children, saying she’s entitled to joint custody of the kids.

Supporters of the 6-1 decision hailed it as a victory for all parents, regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation.

“This is a victory for families in all shapes, sizes and colors,” said Betsy Griffing, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana.

Justice James Nelson also issued a special concurrence, in which he wrote a blistering denunciation of discrimination against homosexuals.

“Naming it for the evil it is, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is an expression of bigotry,” he wrote. “Lesbian and gay Montanans must not be forced to fight to marry, to raise their children and to live with the same dignity that is accorded heterosexuals.”

And, predictably, professional anti-gay activists are outraged:

Jeff Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation, called the court’s decision “egregious.”

“Basically, what the court did in this decision is said that no longer does a parent have to be declared unfit for a third party non-parent to be able to abridge the natural parents’ rights and authorities over that child,” Laszloffy told (LSN). “Now you just have to prove that that child has a psychological connection to you. And you can apply for, fight for, sue for parental rights and it’s a crapshoot, you might get them, you might not.”

While Laszloffy said he believed the issue of homosexual “rights” was not the original impetus behind the case, he noted, “I’m sure that the Montana Supreme Court is always looking for cases to push the homosexual agenda.”

Attorney Matt McReynolds with the Pacific Justice Institute, which filed an amicus brief in the case, agreed.

“It actually seems like the plaintiff was favored in this case just because she was a lesbian,” Reynolds told LSN. “It’s fairly shocking how the Court wouldn’t allow this person who had left the lesbian lifestyle to be freed from it – her and her children.

“It’s very disturbing that someone who wants to get out of this lifestyle can still be trapped in it for years to come … by someone who has no legal or adoptive relationship with the children.”