DETROIT (AP) – A woman who gave birth to twins during a same-sex relationship is considered a parent for custody purposes, even if she has no genetic ties to the girls, the Michigan appeals court ruled.
It’s a win for Lanesha Matthews, who appealed after a Wayne County judge ordered her name to be removed from birth certificates and treated as a third party.
“A woman who gives birth is the birth mother of that child under common law, and there is no need to look elsewhere for meaning,” said Judge Elizabeth Gleicher of the Court of Appeal on Thursday.
Matthews and Kyresha LeFever started a relationship in 2011 and decided to have children. LeFever’s eggs were fertilized by a sperm donor and placed in Matthew’s womb.
The couple separated in 2014 before same-sex marriage was legal in Michigan. Four years later, LeFever sought custody of the twins.
Judge Melissa Cox said LeFever was the “natural and legal mother” and ordered her name to be included on birth certificates. She was given custody of the children while Matthews was given parental leave.
However, the appeals court said Cox misapplied Michigan law. The case will now return to Wayne County with Matthews being treated as a parent, Judges Kirsten Frank Kelly and Michael Riordan said.
Same agreed but wrote a separate statement. She said Matthews and LeFever were “entitled to a full amendment of parental rights” under the US Constitution.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed brief support for Matthews.
“The couple’s method of reproduction is not a basis for denying recognition of Ms. Matthews’ parentage and thereby denying her and the children the constitutional and legal protection to which they are entitled,” wrote Attorney Jay Kaplan.
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