The Washington State Supreme Court just overturned a discriminative ruling in a child custody case that involved a lesbian mother unable to come out to her own children after divorcing their father.
The woman involved in the case was married to her husband for 20 years, had three sons, and raised them in a conservative Christian church. The woman filed for divorce in 2013 when she came out as gay to her husband. Following that, a custody case ensued and a Superior Court judge, Judge James Orlando, gave the father primary custody of the children.
But that’s not all Judge Orlando did. He also gave the father full decision-making on the children’s educational and religious upbringing and ordered the woman to “refrain from having further conversations with the children regarding religion, homosexuality, or other alternative lifestyle concepts,” unless approved by the family therapist.
The judge’s decision seems to have heavily relied on the report of a guardian ad litem whose report showed clear bias and discrimination toward the mother based on her sexual orientation. The guardian ad litem wrote: “Concepts and ideals the children have been taught throughout their lives are being eviscerated.” She also referred to the mother’s sexual orientation as a “lifestyle choice.”
In Judge Orlando’s ruling he wrote: “I believe it will be very challenging for them (the children) to reconcile their religious upbringing with the changes occurring within their family over issues involving marriage and dissolution, as well as homosexuality.” Orlando, therefore, ordered that the father was able to provide the children with financial and emotional stability and gave him primary custody.
When the case made it to Washington’s Supreme Court, a therapist found that the children, who had gone to conservative Christian schools and churches, were very sheltered and would struggle with a transition into public school. Unlike what the guardian ad litem wrote in her report, not all of the children are having issues processing that their mother is gay. The 15-year-old, according to the therapist, is “still processing” his mother’s sexual orientation. The 12-year-old said he would love his mother no matter what and the seven-year-old seems to be “too young to understand.”
The Supreme Court ruled that Judge Orlando was biased in his ruling, favoring the husband’s religious beliefs over the mother’s sexual orientation. The custody case will now go back to the Superior Court and be redetermined.