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Lesbian argues for right to see child of former partner

Lesbian argues for right to see child of former partner

A Pittsburgh woman should be able to see the child of her lesbian former partner even though the birth mother does not want her to do so, the woman's attorney argued Tuesday. "Every parent has a right to have and develop a good relationship with their child," Alphonse David, an attorney for Lambda Legal, a gay rights group based in New York City, told state superior court judges. The two women began a relationship in the late 1980s, and one became pregnant through artificial insemination in 1992. The two raised the girl until they separated in August 1996. A year later a court granted custody to the birth mother and allowed visitation rights to the other woman, identified in court documents only as T.B. The biological mother appealed. In December 2001, the state supreme court ruled that T.B. had legal standing as a parent and sent the case back to the trial court in Cambria County, where both women live, to work out visitation. But Cambria County judge F. Joseph Leahey ruled in June that because the child had been alienated from the other woman, visitation wouldn't be in the child's best interest. T.B. appealed to the superior court, and David told the panel Tuesday that she has seen the girl, who is now 11, only once since 1997, during a psychological evaluation. The birth mother's attorney, Nicholas Banda, argued that a doctor had said visitation would be stressful for the child. He also argued that because T.B. had seen the child only once since 1997, there essentially was no relationship. David countered that the court has granted visitation in cases in which a parent hadn't seen their child in as many as 10 years. He also said that to deny visitation on grounds that the child was alienated from her would lead parents in other custody cases to employ the same tactic to deny visitation to the noncustodial parent. David asked for immediate visitation, but said that T.B. would stop visitation if, after six months, the child no longer wished to see her or if a therapist believed it wasn't a good idea to continue. The three judges who heard the arguments questioned Banda sharply. "Why should this custodial parent be rewarded for alienating this child from the coparent?" asked presiding judge Joseph A. Del Sole. Judge Michael T. Joyce said the court has punished parents for such actions previously. The judges agreed that visitation could be stressful but said that's common in many custody cases and that steps could be taken to reduce it. They didn't indicate when they would rule. (AP)

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