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Montana Judge
Grants Joint Custody to Lesbian

Montana Judge
Grants Joint Custody to Lesbian

A Montana judge Monday granted a woman joint custody of two children she and her former lesbian partner adopted when they were a couple. Michelle Kulstad sought joint custody of her 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter after she and former partner Barbara Maniaci split up in 2006, according to the Associated Press. Maniaci has since married and man and sought sole custody.

A Montana judge Monday granted a woman joint custody of two children she and her former lesbian partner adopted when they were a couple. Michelle Kulstad sought joint custody of her 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter after she and former partner Barbara Maniaci split up in 2006, according to the Associated Press. Maniaci has since married and man and sought sole custody.

"To discriminate further against Ms. Kulstad because of her sexual preference in this day and age is no different than telling a person to go to the back of the bus because of her skin color," district judge Ed McLean wrote.

Kulstad and Maniaci lived together for 10 years before breaking up in 2006. In that time, they adopted two children -- a boy in 2004 and a girl in 2006.

Maniaci, who is now married to a man, says she and her husband should raise the children as they see fit because Kulstad was neither an adoptive parent nor a biological relative. She was represented by an attorney from the conservative Alliance Defense Fund.

Montana law does not address adoption by same-sex couples but allows stepparents (legal or assumed) to adopt children.

"By acknowledging Kulstad as a parent, the court today recognized that it would be both cruel and against established Montana law for her children to be denied the parental love and support Kulstad has shown them since they entered her home," Kulstad's attorney Susan Ridgeway said in a press release.

Sixty-three percent of Montana voters approved a ban on same-sex marriage in 2004. (Michelle Garcia, The Advocate)

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