Court grants full parental rights to unmarried gay woman

Family Law

The same court that paved the way for same-sex marriage in the United States ruled Tuesday that an unmarried gay woman whose former girlfriend gave birth to two children through artificial insemination has the same parental rights as their biological mother.

The Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision Tuesday in a complicated case about the parental rights of a once-partnered, but unmarried, gay couple.

Julie Gallagher gave birth to the children, and her former partner, Karen Partanen, has helped raise them. They are now 4 and 8.

After the couple split in 2013, Partanen wanted to be declared a full legal parent.

A family court judge dismissed Partanen's request, finding that she didn't meet the requirements under state law because she and Gallagher were not married when the children were born, and Partanen is not a biological parent.

In overturning that ruling, the SJC found that a gay person may establish themselves as a child's presumptive parent under state law, even without a biological relationship with the child.

"The plain language of the provisions, then, may be construed to apply to children born to same-sex couples, even though at least one member of the couple may well lack biological ties to the children," Justice Barbara Lenk wrote for the court in the unanimous decision.

The SJC made Massachusetts the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage through a landmark decision in 2003. Partanen was represented by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the same Boston-based legal group that brought the gay marriage case.

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