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One Child, Two Legal Mothers?
Gay and lesbian rights are always an on-going issue. When two female employees met at the one time Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Center in 2006, they decided to use their retirement money to conceive a child. The legal parents in question, Sha’Kayla St. Mary and Veronica Lynn Damon, brought a child into the world through in vitro fertilization. Ms. Damon’s egg was used and Ms. St. Mary carried the baby to term, giving birth in June 2008. The sperm donor remains anonymous.
The two women decided to sign a co-parenting agreement to protect their baby and give the child rights by making it clear that there were two legal parents to take care of the child’s well-being. They wanted the baby to be legally related to each one of them, which according to St. Mary was the main reason the agreement was created and signed. Then they broke up and Damon decided St. Mary had no legal right as a mother since she was only a surrogate; she also dismissed the agreement by stating it was only signed to complete the fertility clinic’s conditions. The agreement stated that Damon was the “biological parent” and St. Mary was the “non-biological parent.” The case is unprecedented and could make it legal for a child to have two separate mothers.
Justice Nancy Saitta was the one responsible for enforcing the co-parenting agreement and the case will receive further hearings. It was St. Mary who went forward with the custody battle after the court decided that she had visiting rights one day a week. Saitta declared the sex of a parent should not be the only element determined to justify who possesses the legal rights over a child. Damon was given the right to relocate to Washington with the child, but St. Mary and her attorney, Joseph Nold, will be looking for the motion to be over-turned and both parent and child will have to return to the state of Nevada, according to the ABA journal.
Despite the fact that the custody battle is between two same-sex parents, the case itself has been handled like any other custodial case. The situation may be new to the state and laws of Nevada, but it is a similar case to one handled by the California Supreme Court. Attorney to Damon, Bradley Schrager, commented, “One of the issues with cases like this is that families change faster than the law does.” Only time will tell whether luck or law or both will win over.
Image: Nevada Supreme Court