A lesbian mother in Oklahoma, amid a contentious divorce, is fighting to reverse a judge’s ruling that removed her name from her child’s birth certificate — a decision that could create a chilling precedent for same-sex parents ending their marriages.
Kris Williams and Rebekah Wilson were married in the summer of 2019, reports local news outlet KFOR. Shortly thereafter, the couple had a son via artificial insemination. While Wilson carried the child, Williams was there for the birth, cut the umbilical cord, and was listed on the birth certificate. The couple’s son was even named after a family member on Williams’s side.
The couple has since filed for divorce and Wilson petitioned the court to remove Williams’s name from the birth certificate. Judge Lynne McGuire subsequently ruled that Williams “failed to pursue a legal remedy to establish parental rights.” According to Judge McGuire, being on the birth certificate wasn’t enough; she should have also adopted her child.
The judge also ruled that the name on the birth certificate should be replaced with that of the sperm donor, who is petitioning the court for custody of the child, reports The 19th.
“My body instantly started shaking,” Williams recalled on hearing the ruling. “I mean pure terror, as a queer person, to be erased.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” William’s attorney, Robyn Hopkins, told KFOR. “It’s not a question about what the divorce is. This isn’t about the divorce case at all. We’re not talking about assets. We’re not talking about marital property, separate property. We’re talking about the custody of a child that was born of that marriage.”
Williams has requested that the court reconsider the motion, and that will happen June 1. It has been 19 weeks since Williams saw her son.
During the divorce, Wilson accused her ex-spouse of attacking her — an accusation Williams denies — and was granted an emergency victim protective order. However, there were no allegations of abuse cited in the judge’s ruling to remove Williams’s name from the birth certificate.
“I want people to know that it’s not just the LGBTQ community that’s vulnerable in this,” Williams said. “We have other families who can’t have biological children and use donors as a means to have families. I think it’s horrible that we have to take an extra step to solidify our space for us to be legally connected to our children.”
“The concern is if [Williams] loses, that’s going to set some pretty bad precedent in the state of Oklahoma, and possibly beyond,” Hanna Roberts, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, told The 19th. “I think that this is just the first time that there has been such an adverse ruling that is so contrary to equal protection. It’s gotten the attention because same-sex couples get divorced all the time.”
The organization intends to get involved if the case moves forward to the appellate court because of the possible wider implications of the ruling.