The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sidestepped a California adoption case involving the rights of gay and lesbian parents. Justices declined without comment to get in the middle of a child custody fight between a San Diego woman and her lesbian former partner. The women were raising two children together but then separated. The California supreme court already rejected an attempt by the birth mother, known as Sharon S., to prevent her former partner from adopting one of the children. That ruling last year was cheered by gay rights organizations as bolstering the 10,000 existing "second-parent" adoptions, in which a nonmarital partner adopts a birth parent's child. California allows those adoptions, but many other states do not.
John Dodd, the birth mother's lawyer, said her constitutional rights will be violated if an unrelated person is allowed to adopt her child over her objections. "This case carries serious public consequences," Dodd told justices in a filing. Attorney Charles Bird said Sharon had consented to joint custody with his client and did not withdraw her support in time. "Bluntly, one can view this record with an imaging satellite, an electron microscope, or anything in between and never find a hint of a constitutional attack on the 90-day limit for revoking consent," Bird wrote in court papers. Both of Sharon's children were conceived through artificial insemination. The older son was adopted by her then-partner in an arrangement in which she retained her parental rights. The second adoption was pending when the couple broke up.