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Gay rights lawyers celebrated on Wednesday after the California Supreme Court granted review in three cases that could have significant impact on the rights of thousands of same-sex parents statewide. All three involve lesbian break-ups — one in which the birth mother was granted sole parental rights, another in which a woman was granted rights as a “presumed father,” and the third involving whether one parent could be forced to pay child support. “I couldn’t be happier,” San Francisco attorney Jill Hersh, who represents a plaintiff in one of the cases, said about the court’s action. “I hope in the long run it means children of same-sex couples are going to be treated with the same regard as those of opposite-sex couples.” Shannon Minter, legal director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing one of the mothers in the child-support case, called the court’s decision to review all three cases “a very good sign indeed.” “These cases will determine the fate of children who are born to same-sex parents outside the context of adoption,” he said. “This is really the next generation of cases.” The high court unanimously granted review in K.M. v. E.G., 125643, and Kristine Renee H. v. Lisa Ann R., 126945, but Justice Janice Rogers Brown withheld her vote for hearing the child support case, Elisa B. v. Superior Court (Emily B.), 125912. In the K.M. case, San Francisco’s 1st District Court of Appeal ruled on May 11 that a lesbian mother who gave birth to twin girls with eggs donated by her domestic partner was the sole legal parent. The court unanimously held that the donor, referred to only as K.M., had relinquished her parental rights when she signed a standard egg donation form. In Elisa B., Sacramento’s 3rd District unanimously refused on May 20 to award child support to a woman who claimed her former same-sex partner was the de facto parent of her twins. The court said that the woman named only as Elisa B. didn’t have any of the “rights, privileges, duties or obligations” of a parent because she wasn’t their natural mother and hadn’t adopted the twin boy and girl. Finally, on June 30, Los Angeles’ 2nd District took the unprecedented step of ruling unanimously 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. The court blocked Kristine Renee H.’s attempt to sever her former partner’s parental rights. In the latter two cases, the mothers were artificially inseminated, while in the first case, the twins were born through in vitro fertilization. The issue of parenthood outside adoption has split the gay community, with many siding with the birth mother and others calling it unusually heartbreaking to oust the other partner who may have spent years helping raise the children. Help from the state Supreme Court was very welcome, and gay rights lawyers said the resolution is just as important to the children as to the parents. “What it means to me is that they are taking very seriously the need to define the law in order to protect the rights of children of same-sex couples and the rights of same-sex parents,” Hersh said. “The whole point of the California parentage law,” Minter said, “is to protect children regardless of whether their parents are married, and regardless of how the children came into the world, and regardless of whether the child was biologically related to the parents.” Diana Richmond, a Sideman & Bancroft lawyer who represents the defendant in K.M. v. E.G., couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. Neither could Garden Grove, Calif., lawyer Shelly Hanke, who represented the woman resisting child support. But Beverly Hills appellate lawyer Honey Amado — who represents the woman who sought to sever her partner’s parental rights in Kristine Renee H. — also felt it was important for the high court to grant review. “I do think it’s very significant that the court looks very carefully at the statutes that have been passed by the Legislature and the intended application of those statutes,” she said. “We have stepparent and second-parent adoptions that protect same-sex couples,” she added. “Had the people undertaken an adoption in my case or any other case, their rights would have been affirmed, and the people could rely on the legal acts that they have taken.”

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