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Wis. Same-Sex Couple Granted Adoption Rights, Marriage Recognition

Wis. Same-Sex Couple Granted Adoption Rights, Marriage Recognition


With Wisconsin's equal marriage ban declared unconstitutional, parental rights have been able to forge ahead.

A pair of same-sex parents in Wisconsin can legally adopt one another's biological children, and the state must recognize the marriage of the two women who gave birth to the children, a state judge ruled this week, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

The Madison-based couple, Teresa and Kat Riley, who were registered as domestic partners in Wisconsin, then traveled to Iowa last year, where they were legally married. Together, they have two young children, one of whom was birthed by Teresa and the other by Kat.

Though legal guardians of each other's biological child, both mothers wanted full parental rights, which could only be optioned through legal adoption. But because Wisconsin does not recognize same-sex marriage, the couple had to petition the court for this nearly unprecedented right.

On Wednesday, the Rileys were overjoyed to be granted adoptions for their 2-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. Dane County Circuit Judge Shelley Gaylord ruled that their marriage was constitutionally valid and therefore must be recognized under Wisconsin adoption laws.

In order to make other Wisconsin same-sex couples aware of their newly recognized parental and marriage rights, the couple then persuaded a judge to open the court record, which is usually closed because it belongs to a juvenile court.

In explaining her as-yet uncommon decision, Judge Gaylord said she granted the Rileys' adoptions in part because Wisconsin's equal marriage ban has been ruled unconstitutional, notes the Journal.

Prior to this, another Wisconsin lesbian couple, Sarah Davis and Heather Schaller of Madison, were granted an adoption as well, but the records were not made public. Because of the generally sealed nature of adoption records, it is ultimately impossible to know how many other same-sex couples have done the same, reports the Journal.

Although the Rileys were celebrating their victory, adoption attorney Michele Perreault told the newspaper that the couple's public precedent is unlikely to be legally binding, and therefore may not have a broader impact on policies statewide. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican who is defending the state's ban on same-sex marriage in federal court, has stated that his office will ignore the Rileys' adoption.

Still, according to Perreault, their case may assist other judges who are considering similar cases.

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Mitch Kellaway