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A Los Angeles appeal court took the unprecedented step Wednesday of ruling that a non-birth mother in a same-sex relationship could claim co-parent status if viewed as a “presumed father” under the state’s Uniform Parentage Act. “That statute, when read in a gender-neutral manner,” 2nd District Justice H. Walter Croskey wrote, “provides that a woman is presumed to be a parent of a child if �[she] receives the child into [her] home and openly holds out the child as [her] natural child.’ “We see no prohibition in the act,” he continued, “that prevents us from concluding that a child has two parents of the same sex, especially here when no one other than the partner is vying to become the child’s second parent.” Justices Joan Dempsey Klein and Richard Aldrich concurred. The decision contradicts several previous appeal court rulings — including Elisa Maria B. v. Superior Court (Emily B.), 04 C.D.O.S. 4343, issued by Sacramento’s 3rd District on May 20 — that did not read the Uniform Parentage Act in a gender-neutral manner. Wednesday’s case involved a woman identified in court papers only as Lisa Ann R., who decided to raise a child with her partner of more than a decade, Kristine Renee H. After Kristine became pregnant by artificial insemination, the two women entered into a pre-birth, court-approved stipulation that both would be parents. A child, Lauren, was born Oct. 3, 2000. But the couple’s relationship ended 23 months later, and Kristine sought to sever Lisa’s parental rights. The appeal court declared the pre-birth agreement null and void, saying that a determination of parentage “cannot rest simply on the parties’ agreement.” But the justices held that since Lisa was neither a natural nor adoptive mother, they could still look at her rights as a presumptive father under Family Code � 7611(d). “Though the act is predicated on determining legal �motherhood’ and �fatherhood’ � the statutory language does not restrict the parent-child relationship based on gender to a mother and father,” Croskey wrote. “The act requires that we read it in a gender-neutral manner. “The act,” he wrote emphatically, “contemplates two legal parents irrespective of their gender. As a general proposition, it benefits both the child and the parents to identify as early as possible who is responsible for the child’s protection, guidance and care.” The court noted the significance of its ruling by stating that up until now, “no appellate decision” has applied the act “to determine parental rights in a same-sex partner with no biological connection to the child.” The 44-page ruling sends the case back to Los Angeles County Superior Court “to resolve the issues of Lisa’s parentage and her rights, if any, to visitation and/or custody.” Twelve amici curiae — including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Center for Youth Law — signed on in support of Lisa. The ruling is Kristine Renee H. v. Lisa Ann R., B167799.

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