It all started with an increase in child support...
In 1995, a Florida judge was presented with a custody modification case. One of hundreds that probably crossed his bench. Yet the situations surrounding this case made it unique.
The couple had been separated and then divorced for six years. At the time of the divorce, primary custody of their only daughter had been awarded to the mother. She requested only $150 per month in child support, well below the Florida state guideline, as she knew that her ex-husband was not in a position to pay more and she wanted him to remain a part of their daughter’s life. Yet mounting bills and a loss of income forced the mother to file for an increase in child support which she was awarded.
In turn, the father filed for a complete modification of custody. Many involved with the case thought this was a stunt by the father to avoid paying child support. Why would the state modify custody when the mother appeared to be a loving and devoted mother? And in the previous six years, the father had by all accounts been an absent father. He was unclear about what grade the young girl was in and which school she was attending. Nor did he know that she had been in counseling for over a year to help with her ADD diagnosis. He was behind in child support, and the most time he had ever spent with the daughter was four consecutive days on a trip. Mostly he just saw her every other weekend for one day. He had a limited education, was prejudiced, lived in a trailer down a windy dirt country road, had a history of a bad temper, and had been married to his fourth wife for less than a year. And as if that didn’t seem like enough stacked against him:
He had murdered his first wife.
Yet after a two hour hearing that August, the judge ruled that custody should be transferred to the father. Why?
The mother was a lesbian.
Although the judge stated that the mother’s sexual orientation had nothing to do with his decision, in his ruling he said “...I believe that this child should be given the opportunity and the option to live in a non-lesbian world…”. Devastated at the thought that the court had found her unfit to be a parent, the mother didn’t know where to turn. That’s when she found the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco. They immediately took on the case and filed an appeal. It seemed like a no-brainer to them. Everything seemed to be stacked in the mother’s favor. They were wrong.