VIRGINIA COURT RULES AGAI

File Name: 3074.txt

Ä Area: Feminism ÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄ
  Msg#: 332                                          Date: 05-01-95  00:48
  From: Randy Edwards                                Read: Yes    Replied: No 
    To: All                                          Mark:                     
  Subj: VIRGINIA COURT RULES AGAI
ÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄÄ
From: Workers World Service 
Reply-To: [email protected]
------------------------
Via Workers World Service
Reprinted from the May 4, 1995, issue of Workers World newspaper
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VIRGINIA COURT RULES AGAINST LESBIAN MOTHER/STRUGGLE FOR RIGHTS
HEATS UP

By Kristianna Tho'Mas

The Virginia Supreme Court issued a ruling on April 21 denying
Sharon Bottoms, a lesbian, custody of her son. The court ruled
that Bottoms is an unfit mother because her "live-in
relationship" could bring the child "social condemnation."

In other words, bias against lesbians justifies bias against
lesbians.

Bottoms had first lost custody of her son, Tyler Doustou, when a
lower-court judge said she is an unfit mother because she and her
lover engage in oral sex.

In the state of Virginia homosexual sex, and all oral sex, is
still a crime, punishable as a class six felony. 

Sharon Bottoms appealed the ruling of the lower court. Last June
the Virginia Court of Appeals reversed the ruling. The appellate
panel found that a parent's private sexual conduct--even if it
violates backward laws--is not grounds for losing custody.

However, the child remained with the grandmother while the case
was appealed. Bottoms was only allowed to see him two days a
week, and never in the presence of her lover.

Now the Virginia Supreme Court has reversed the appellate court's
decision. The majority opinion said, "The evidence is plainly
sufficient that the mother is an unfit custodian at this time,
and that the child's best interests would be promoted by awarding
custody to the grandparents. ...

"We have previously said that living daily under conditions
stemming from active lesbianism practiced in the home may impose
a burden upon a child by reason of the social condemnation
attached to such and arrangement."

The court cited other factors, like Bottoms' unemployment and
poverty, as contributing to her unfitness as a parent. "This
showed that she is being punished for being poor," a
representative of the statewide lesbian and gay civil-rights
group Virginians for Justice told Workers World. "But overall,
the main issue was her lesbianism. Everything else was just to
cover that."

In fact, the court's decision pointed to the "moral climate" in
the home created by Bottoms' lesbian conduct.

Shirley Lesser, Virginians For Justice's manager noted: "Never
before has the court cited lack of education or difficulty in
maintaining a job as justifiable factors in the removal of a
child from the custody of his parent.

"The court has overtly twisted evidence to support its bias
against gay and lesbian individuals. Its decision has opened a
Pandora's box--if the Virginia Supreme Court can elevate bits of
evidence and ignore other pieces to justify its prejudice against
lesbian parents, then it can do the same to any group of people
it may take issue with."

 The court had to stretch to find justification for this
decision," remarked Patrick Heck, Virginians For Justice's
chairperson.

"Obviously, their decision was based on the 'Crimes Against
Nature' statute and the prevailing attitude that the law applies
differently to homosexuals than to heterosexuals."

STRUGGLE STEPS UP

"This is a tragedy for lesbian and gay parents," says Suzanne
Goldberg, a lawyer for the Lambda Legal Defense Fund in New York
City. Lambda has filed a legal brief in support of Bottoms. Her
lawyers plan to appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, Bottoms and her lover April Wade are reportedly
devastated by the ruling. According to the Virginians for Justice
representative, Bottoms is in seclusion, not taking calls even
from close friends.

This is how the "justice" system oppresses lesbian, gay and
transgendered people--breaking up their families, driving them to
despair.

But Bottoms and Wade aren't alone. The lesbian and gay movement
is mobilizing to come to their defense and step up the fight to
bring Tyler back home.

Virginians for Justice has taken a strong stand against the
ruling by the Supreme court. A protest rally is set to take place
at the Statehouse in Richmond on April 28. VFJ is reaching out to
civil-rights groups, religious organizations, community activists
and other forces active in the fight for social justice.

Some in the gay movement are also considering launching a
national boycott of the state. "Virginia has declared itself a
hate state," one activist told WW. "Maybe the bigots need to be
punished for that."


                               -30-

(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted
if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World,
55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: [email protected] For
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