"In the best interests of the child": lesbian and gay parenting custody cases, 1967-1985.
Abstract: This article offer a history of lesbian and gay parenting custody case from 1967 to 1985. Using court transcripts, newspaper articles, and oral histories with key participants, it documents the struggle over definitions of the family that emerged in the gay and lesbian liberation era as women and men left previous heterosexual relationships and were forced to fight for custody or visitation of their children. These legal battles marked the first generation of lesbian and gay parents to openly fight for their parental rights through the judicial system. Even in states where same-sex orientation did not automatically render them unfit parents in the eyes of the law, lesbian mothers and gay fathers faced an entrenched debate over what was in "the best interests of the child." Gradually, with the help of sympathetic expert witnesses and lesbian mother and gay father advocacy groups, they challenged the widespread cultural assumption that homosexuality and parenting were antithetical. In doing so, they paved the way for the current focus on domestic/parental rights in the modern Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) freedom struggle.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Best interests of the child doctrine (Interpretation and construction)
Custody of children (Interpretation and construction)
Parent and child (Law) (Interpretation and construction)
Gay parents (History)
Gay parents (Laws, regulations and rules)
Author: Rivers, Daniel
Pub Date: 06/22/2010
Publication: Name: Journal of Social History Publisher: Journal of Social History Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: History; Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Journal of Social History ISSN: 0022-4529
Issue: Date: Summer, 2010 Source Volume: 43 Source Issue: 4
Topic: Event Code: 930 Government regulation; 940 Government regulation (cont); 980 Legal issues & crime Advertising Code: 94 Legal/Government Regulation Computer Subject: Government regulation
Product: Product Code: 9101221 Custody (Juvenile Law) NAICS Code: 92219 Other Justice, Public Order, and Safety Activities
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 230778700
Full Text: On November 15, 1967, Ellen Nadler appeared before the honorable Justice Joseph Babich in the Superior Court of California, Sacramento County. It was the second time in two months .she had argued for custody of her five-year old daughter. A little more than a month earlier, on October 5, Justice Babich had awarded custody of the child to Nadler's ex-husband solely on the basis of the mother's lesbianism. The judge had done so without hearing any additional evidence in the case, stating that, "the homosexuality of plaintiff as a matter of law constitutes her not a fit or proper person to have the care, custody and control of ... the minor child of the parties hereto." (1) Ellen Nadler's trial marked the beginning of decades of lesbian mother and gay father custody cases, as men and women fought for the right to express their same-sex sexual orientation and remain parents at the same time.

This article examines the early history of lesbian and gay custody conflicts from 1967 to 1985 through an analysis of one hundred and twenty-two cases in which lesbian or gay parenting was an issue, based on court transcripts, newspaper articles, oral histories, professional journals, personal letters, and lesbian and gay periodicals. It argues that institutional anti-gay and lesbian prejudice constructed same-sex sexuality as antithetical to patenting, actively stripped many lesbians and gay men of their parental tights, and kept a whole generation of lesbian and gay parents in fear of being estranged from their children. It further shows, however, that these gay and lesbian custody battles slowly chipped away at legal and social prejudices. In the 1970s, as large numbers of lesbians and gay men openly declared their sexuality, they challenged the longstanding cultural assumption that lesbians and gay men could not be parents. The greater visibility of gay and lesbian communities increased the risk of exposure and therefore loss of custody for many lesbian and gay parents, and in the eighteen years between 1967 and 1985, lesbian and gay parents lost many mote court battles than they won. By 1985, however, an increasing number of state courts were overturning decisions that had denied lesbian mothers and gay fathers custody and visitation rights. This essay examines these critical early years of custody cases to reveal the powerful cultural link between sexual orientation and the family and its slow and arduous shift. Lesbians and gay men had to fight hard to change the perception of parenting as exclusively heterosexual and the legal practices that supported it. Their uphill battle is an important part of both why and how domestic, parental, and marital rights came to be at the center of the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights movement by the end of the twentieth century. (2)

The majority of cases from 1967 to 1985 involved men and women who had left heterosexual marriages. Gay fathers usually fought for visitation rights while lesbians fought for either visitation or outright custody. Gay fathers were often estranged from their children for years as a result of court orders secured by ex-wives or other family members. (3) Both lesbian mothers and gay fathers lost custodial rights regularly, and even when they were allowed to spend time with their children, they often did so at the expense of their constitutional rights of association, in the form of prohibitions against being with their same-sex partner and their children at the same time or participating in lesbian and gay activism or social events.

When lesbian mothers and gay fathers came out in the process of a divorce from heterosexual spouses, they often faced the immediate danger of losing custody of and even contact with their children. At this time, even those lesbian and gay parents who tried to hide their sexual identity came under increased scrutiny by ex-spouses, both because there was a greater awareness of same-sex sexual orientation in society in general, and because after leaving their heterosexual marriages they often relocated to gay and lesbian neighborhoods, such as San Francisco's Castro District or New York's Greenwich Village. Once visible in a lesbian or gay community, the risk was much greater that ex-spouses or family members would use their sexual orientation against them in a custody dispute.

The various components that made up judicial prejudice against lesbian mothers and gay fathers in these custody cases were familiar ones in U.S. society. They echo longstanding aspects of anti-gay and lesbian bigotry in the United States, including the belief that gay men and lesbians were more likely to be pedophiles, that they were emotionally irresponsible, that their children might be gay - which the courts assumed was a negative outcome - and that these children would face social stigma and psychological damage as the result of being raised by a lesbian or gay parent. These attitudes are similar to rhetoric that permeated legal decisions and campaigns against gay and lesbian teachers, the rounding up of gay men in the sex crime panics of the 1950s and 1960s, and the backlash against the lesbian and gay freedom struggle represented by the 1977 "Save Our Children" campaign in Dade County, Florida. (4) All of these reactions to lesbian and gay individuals and communities share fundamental fears about the proximity of children to same-sex sexual orientation, fears which had their most direct manifestation in the virulent animosity toward gay fathers and lesbian mothers in the courts.

Those custody cases involving lesbian and gay parents that are traceable represent only the tip of the iceberg. Due to child privacy concerns and a desire to have the latitude of judges unfettered by publicity, decisions largely went unpublished. Only when a decision was appealed did it become public. Appellate decisions, therefore, make up the majority of the historical record. Thus, with a few exceptions, we know little of lesbians and gay men who lost custody of their children outright and never appealed the original decision. In addition, the public record does not include the many custody cases that were settled out of court. The cases that did become known, however, often received a great deal of attention in both the mainstream and grassroots gay and lesbian community media, which meant that legal prejudice against lesbian and gay parents, as well as its gradual lessening, had a social impact far beyond the courtroom.

A slow decline in judicial bias against gay and lesbian parents occurred in the years between 1967 and 1985 for the same reason the cases emerged in the first place; as lesbian feminist and gay liberation movements energized and made lesbian and gay communities more visible, lesbian and gay parents lost custody of their children, but political activism in these communities also heightened opposition to these losses. Lesbian mother and gay father groups formed across the country, including politically active groups like Dykes and Tykes in New York City, the Lesbian Mothers Union (LMU) in Oakland, California, and the Lesbian Mothers National Defense Fund (LMNDF) in Seattle, Washington. Gay fathers groups, although less concertedly political than lesbian mother organizations, also provided personal support and financial assistance for members facing attacks on their parental rights. These organizations raised funds for lesbian mothers and gay fathers involved in custody struggles and worked with progressive attorneys such as Donna Hitchens and Roberta Achtenberg of the Lesbian Rights Project (LRP), Rosalie Davies from Custody Action for Lesbian Mothers (CALM), or Marilyn Haft with the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Sexual Rights Project, as well as political activists from organizations such as the National Gay Task Force (NGTF). The political and legal work these organizations pioneered was critical to the slow shift in custody decisions. It also played a fundamental role in turning the focus of the LGBT freedom struggle toward the rights of marriage and the family.

Also critical in the gradual movement towards greater acceptance of lesbian and gay parenting was the revaluation of same-sex sexuality within the field of psychiatry. (5) As psychiatrists and psychologists such as Judd Marmor, Richard Green, John Money, and Wardell Pomeroy fought to change the stance of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) on same-sex sexuality, they also argued that sexual orientation was irrelevant to fit parenthood. In the early 1970s, a few of these individuals, including Pomeroy, Money, and Green, began to testify on behalf of lesbian mothers and gay fathers in custody disputes, arguing that lesbians and gay men were not unlit to be parents because of their sexuality and would not cause psychological damage to their children. Lesbian mother activist groups and legal advocacy organizations often worked to put lesbian and gay parents facing custody battles in touch with these early sympathetic psychologists and psychiatrists.

By 1985, this social, professional, and legal activism on behalf of the parental rights of lesbians and gay men began to have an impact on custody rulings in the West and the Northeast, areas where men and women migrated as part of their coming-out process. States where sizable lesbian or gay communities had formed after the Second World War, such as California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York, were early and frequent battlegrounds between gay and lesbian parents, their ex-spouses, and sometimes other family members, along with political, legal, and religious advocates on either side. (6) It was also in these locations that state supreme courts began deciding in favor of lesbian mothers and gay fathers by the late 1970s and early 1980s. Resistance to change was most visible in states traditionally dominated by Christian fundamentalism, such as North Carolina, Mississippi, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas. (7)

The call for custodial and parental rights from 1970 to 1985 was an important part of broader legal efforts that accompanied gay and lesbian liberation movements, and negative judicial reactions to lesbian mothers and gay fathers resembled court responses to other demands for lesbian and gay civil rights in the same period. Judges often criticized lesbians and gay men fighting for employment or privacy rights for discussing their cases with the press or for taking part in gay or lesbian political activities, factors also cited in many decisions denying lesbian mothers and gay fathers custody or visitation rights. (8) Judges also used state sodomy laws as justification for anti-gay and lesbian decisions in a whole range of cases, arguing that under these laws, lesbians and gay men were admitted criminals and therefore could not appeal to the legal system to uphold their rights to employment, privacy, or child custody.

This essay examines the animosity that lesbian mothers and gay fathers experienced in custody courts from 1967 to 1985, arguing that the prevalent judicial bias was that "the best interests of the child" always lay in a heterosexual household and that this bias effectively deprived lesbian and gay parents of their civil rights. This bias and the legal losses that came from it created an atmosphere of fear that affected not only those parents who lost custody but also an entire generation of lesbian mothers and gay fathers. However, lesbian and gay custody cases of this period also challenged and began to change the widely accepted notion that same-sex sexual orientation was antithetical to parenting, and a state-by-state shift in judicial, opinion became visible by the mid 1980s. (9)

The Denial of Custody

The 1967 Nadler rehearing exemplifies the ways in which the legal doctrine of "the best interests or the child" was frequently used as a smoke screen for judicial bias against homosexuality and a denial of parental rights to lesbians and gay men. Judge Babich's ruling in the case had been subsequently overturned by a California Court of Appeals, which objected to the assumption that homosexuality per se made someone an unfit parent. The appellate court demanded that Babich re-hear the case. The higher court did not necessarily disagree with his final award of custody to the father or the condemnation of lesbianism in a woman who also had children. It did find fault, however, because he had not exercised the "very broad discretion" at his disposal as a judge in a custody dispute. As a matter of law, Justice Babich had erred in not hearing all of the evidence in the case with "the best interests of the child" in mind; instead he had .simply declared lesbianism grounds for removal of custodial privileges with no further review.

There is little doubt that Ellen Nadler's sexual orientation was still on trial in the appeals proceedings. At the end of the long trial, during which the judge and the attorney for her ex-husband were both graphically preoccupied with her sexuality, Nadler again lost custody of her daughter. This time, however, the judge was clear in seating that it was because a heterosexual environment would be in "the best interests of the child," not because lesbian motherhood was against the law.

In demanding chat Judge Babich base his decision on "the good of the child," the Court of Appeals was working from a California state statute that had its roots in Victorian-era concepts of motherhood and childhood. Based on a vision of a private domestic sphere, and buoyed by the rise of an urban middle class, these new ideas gradually led to the development of a "maternal preference" when courts decided issues of child custody. Of course, like the "cult of true womanhood" that it accompanied, this glorification of motherhood had certain built-in restrictions based on class and race; the ideal of the virtuous mother applied explicitly to white, middle-class women of European ancestry. (10) This new Victorian philosophy replaced a colonial-era deference to a father's right to his children as property. By 1936, forty-two state legislatures had rewritten their laws regarding custody to reflect this transition. For decades, state laws embodied two principles: "maternal preference," or the "tender years" principle, as it also came to be known, and the idea that judges must prioritize the "best interests of the child." (11)

By the late 1960s, custody rulings began to revise the trend towards maternal preference, as divorce rates increased rapidly and father's rights groups lobbied for changes in custody law. (12) Men going through divorce started to question a system that they claimed almost always awarded custody to the mother. Often ex-husbands sued for custody after being ordered by increasingly stringent courts to pay overdue child support. Changes occurred taster on the books than in court decisions, but gradually, over the decade of the seventies, heterosexual fathers did begin to receive substantial custody rights. (13) The maternal preference doctrine began to fade from American family courts, leaving a strengthened "best interests" doctrine in its place.

The 1967 Nadler case serves as a symbol for the decade and a half of intense struggle that lay ahead for lesbians and gay men who fought in the courts for their right to parent their children. In some ways, the case of Ellen Nadler set a precedent in California. The state already had a "best interests of the child" statute on the books, and thus, Nadler established that a lesbian or gay man could not be declared an "unfit" parent per se, simply as "a matter of law." But this impact was limited to California, and in any case, such state statutes could easily be made to fit a judge's agenda. In California after the Nadler appeal in 1967, the courts merely had to conjecture that being in the care of a homosexual parent was not "in the best interests of the child," circumventing the question of whether homosexuality per se made an individual an unfit parent. The ambiguous and slippery bias against these parents that characterized the final decision in the Nadler case, couched in a concern for the welfare of the child, was the norm for most, of the decade. In state after state, family court judges hid their condemnation of gay and lesbian parents behind the logic of a "nexus ruling." Judges found reasons, remarkably similar ones from state to state, to decide that there was a definitive connection, or "nexus," between a parent's same-sex sexuality and possible harm to children and that a child's best interest always lay with having a heterosexual family.

The reasons judges gave for taking custody away from lesbian and gay parents revolved around the idea that a parent's same-sex sexuality would harm their children. Judges often brought up the concern that the children of lesbian or gay parents would be socially ostracized. In one case, a New jersey court denied Sandra Panzino custody of her two daughters in 1977 on the grounds that her children might suffer stigmatization. Even though Panzino was a Girl Scout troop leader, had been sole caretaker of the girls for seven years, was heralded as "a devoted mother" by school officials at the custody hearings, and had recently been forced to sue her ex-husband for back child support, she lost custody because of her sexual orientation. Judge Joseph Gruccio claimed that Panzino was "too dependent" on her daughters, and his decision discussed the dangers of social alienation and ridicule the girls might face as a result of her lesbianism if they remained with their mother. (14)

This idea that the children of gay men and lesbians would suffer socially because of their parents and that this possibility justified a denial of custody to lesbian and gay parents was widespread. One conservative judge who declared in a legal journal article that lesbian mothers were to be "pitied more than condemned," listed "criticism and ostracism by the community" as one of the reasons he cautioned against out lesbians having custody of their children. (15) A Texas jury denied Mary Jo Risher custody of her five year-old son in a 1976 trial in which her fifteen year-old son testified that he had suffered ridicule at the hands of his peers over his mothers lesbianism. (16)

In addition to believing that the children of lesbians and gay men would suffer from stigma, judges were often convinced that gay men and lesbians were likely to molest their children. The supervised visits required in many court decisions were structured with these fears in mind. In the Nadler case, Judge Joseph Babich had remarked, "The Court--we are dealing with a four-year old on the threshold of its development--just cannot take the chance that something untoward should happen to it." (17) In a speech given at Georgia State University in Atlanta soon after she lost custody of her nine-year old son, Mary Jo Risher identified the myth that all gay people were "child molesters" as one of the cultural biases that she felt had influenced the jury in her case. Mary Jo Risher's ex-husband's attorney repeatedly asked her in court if she and her partner, Ann Foreman, performed any sexual acts in front of the children. (18) Orange County social workers accused Cynthia Forcier, a Native American lesbian mother, of molesting her five-year old daughter in a California custody case in which her lesbianism was also an issue. A doctor assumed that bruises in the girl's pelvic area were indications of sexual molestation and not the result of being kicked by another child, as Forcier's daughter claimed. The doctor and a social worker wrote to Orange County authorities declaring Forcier an unfit mother and linking the possible molestation with lesbianism. When an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled that Cynthia's lesbianism would not be admissible against her in court, all charges were dropped. (19)'

Gay fathers also faced these accusations. Robert Johnson was married to a woman in the early 1970s after living as a gay man in San Francisco during the decades after the Second World War; when he came out to his wife in 1983, she immediately accused him of molesting their son as part of a custody battle focused on the "sickness" of his homosexuality. (20) Similarly, a petition filed in 1982 on the part of a gay man's ex-wife in Dekalb County, Illinois, alleged that the man was "recruiting the children into homosexuality" and that he was likely to molest them. A county examination of the man's relationship with his children found no evidence of any abuse. (21) Cases across the nation at this time echo the concerns reflected in these examples that gay men and lesbians were a threat to their children or that being raised with lesbians and gay men harmed children in some way, socially, emotionally, psychologically, or sexually.

During the first decade and a half of lesbian mother custody cases, many of the most publicized cases involved white lesbian mothers who had left marriages to middle-class husbands. These women attracted public attention because their race and the class positions they had inhabited before coming out made them legible as mothers to mainstream society at the same time as their lesbianism made them the targets of animosity. This left the struggles of lesbian mothers of color invisible. For these women, white supremacy compounded the prejudice they faced in custody courts. In a 1979 letter to the LMNDF in Seattle, attorneys for the LRP reported that they had represented lesbian mothers in four cases in 1978, and that three of these cases had involved Black lesbian mothers who "confronted the multiple discrimination of our legal system - black, poor, lesbians, and mothers." (22) A woman writing from North Carolina in 1984 who identified as "a dyke of colour" and an "out dyke" asked the LMNDF for support in a custody case she was fighting. She described her fear that she would lose custody of her child in the conservative climate of her region because of her inability to afford a good lawyer. (23)

The intense vulnerability of being a lesbian mother of color was so great that in some cases it drove women to go underground with their children to keep custody of them. Earnestine Blue, an African-American lesbian mother who fled California for Utah in 1974, rather than lose custody of her children to their father, described the way that racism and anti-lesbian bias worked together in the courtroom: "I think that homophobia plays into it, I think the racism plays into it. I think that the judge did not care because both of us were African-Americans. I think that they felt like I was way worse because I was a lesbian." Blue recalled that her lack of financial resources made her especially vulnerable and said, "I'm a black lesbian female, and my husband ... he had a lot more money than I did, and I couldn't afford an attorney." (24)

Sometimes attorneys seeking to strip lesbian mothers of visitation rights or custody would use the race of their partners or their partners' children as a way to portray them as unfit mothers, In one Arizona custody case, attorneys suggested that the interracial relationship of a white lesbian mother fighting for custody might harm her children. (25) In a Virginia case, the "looseness" of a lesbian mother's household was argued based on her lesbianism, the fact that she allowed her son to say the word "shit," and that her lover's son was Black. (26)

Decisions in many cases nationwide cited the legal proscriptions against sodomy and the judges' agreement with these laws as justification for denying gay men and lesbians their right to parent their children. The use of sodomy laws to police same-sex sexual orientation throughout the twentieth century included decades of raids on gay and lesbian bars and meeting-places under state statutes variously worded as "sodomy," "sexual psychopath," or "crimes against nature" laws. (27) Although states slowly repealed these laws, beginning with Illinois in 1961, some states retained them until very recently. In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick to uphold the sodomy laws, a ruling that held until 2003, when Lawrence v. Texas overturned Hardwick. (28) Before the Lawrence decision, lesbians and gay men were subject to custody discrimination in states where sodomy or "crimes against nature" laws remained in effect. (29)

In the 1975 California case Chaffin v. Frye, the judge explicitly referred to the laws against sodomy in denying Lynda Chaffin the right to he a mother, even though there was vigorous lobbying against these laws in the state legislature at the time. The judge argued that even though society was growing permissive, so much so that "in certain respects enforcement of the criminal law against the private commission of homosexual acts may he inappropriate," this change did not mean that lesbians or gay men could be allowed to keep their children. (30) Admitting that in some situations sodomy laws could be antiquated, this judge nonetheless cited their historical existence to bolster his opposition to lesbian parenting. In a 1985 ruling, the Virginia Supreme Court used the Virginia stature against sodomy as partial justification for limiting a gay man's visitation rights with his daughter, forbidding him from seeing her in the presence of his lover or any other gay men. (31) Assistant D.A. Ernest F. Winters referred to California's sodomy law when he demanded that Ellen Nadler relinquish the names of her female sexual partners since 1966; he told the court that these women "may be felons, and I believe there is a case in point in which, continued association with felons has been ground to deny custody to a parent." (32) Over the objections of both Ellen Nadler and her attorney, the court forced her to reveal the women's names. Judges like these continued to cite the sodomy laws to deny lesbian mothers and gay fathers custody of their children until the Lawrence decision declared them unconstitutional.

Judges stripped many lesbian and gay parents of their constitutional right of free association out of a fear that even casual displays of affection between same-sex couples would be detrimental to children. (33) In case after case, gay and lesbian parents were ordered to sign affidavits agreeing never to have their partners and children in their homes at the same time, to undergo regular psychiatric examinations testifying to their repudiation of their sexual orientation, and to halt all pro-gay tights activist work in order to maintain parental rights. (34)

As gay men and lesbians fought for custody or visitation rights, the threat that they could he separated from their partners loomed large. "That was our main concern in Jeanne's case," remembered Jeanne Jullion's attorney Jill Lippett, "that she and her partner would not be able to live together. (35) In a 1972 California case, M v. M, the court forced Cam Mitchell to agree that she would not live with her lover, Darlene Reynolds, or even allow her children to come into Reynolds's presence, in order to keep custody of her three children. After delivering his decision, the judge explained that he had put these limitations on Mitchell to show he "wasn't soft on homosexuals," even though a juvenile probation officer recommended in her favor in the original custody proceedings. (36) Mitchell received assistance from the LMU chapters in San Francisco and Oakland and eventually successfully appealed the restrictions on her right of association. Del Martin, one of the founders of the LMU, wrote in her personal notes about a 1973 case in which a lesbian mother was allowed to retain custody of her children only "as long as she lived alone with them." (37)

Outside of California, a range of custody decisions across the country repeated these restrictions on lesbian mothers. In a 1973 decision in Spence v. Durham, the Supreme Court of North Carolina overturned an appellate decision denying Susan Spence custody of her two daughters. The Supreme Court only granted custody to Spence based on evidence that she had refrained from lesbianism since 1968, at which time evidence had pointed to "the existence of a situation in their home ... which was beyond the pale of the most permissive society." Without expanding on this ominous euphemism, the court awarded Spence custody with the caveat that "at least every six months" a social service agency would visit the family and file a report. (38) In two separate cases, Schuster v. Schuster (1974) and Isaacson v. Isaacson (1974), the court told Sandy Schuster and Madeline Isaacson, two Seattle women, both open lesbians, that living together as they had been doing was not in the "best interests" of their six children and ordered them to keep their family apart. (39) One anonymous account from 1976 tells of a Boston woman identified only as "Carole" losing custody of her children and retaining visitation rights only by promising she would not sleep with her lover while the children were in the house. (40) In the New York case, In re Jane B., the mother's visitation rights were restricted to daytime hours and to places where no other "homosexuals" were present. In this case, the court explicitly stated that the woman's constitutional tights had been superseded by the "best interests of the child." (41) In another New York case that began in 1971 when Karen Fleischer's parents divorced and began to fight for her custody, the judge told her mother - an admitted lesbian -that she could only visit her daughter when her lover was not presents. (42)

All over the country, gay fathers also risked losing their rights of association. In a 1973 case involving an Oregon man who was "alleged" to he a homosexual, the court awarded custody to the father only with a stipulation against "any other man. ... living in the family home." The mother of the two boys involved in this case had "substantially no contact" with them for ten years during which she had not expressed a desire for custody. When she tried to claim custody in 1973, the court denied her request only after ordering that the father and the boys remain under "supervision by the Clackamas County Juvenile Department." This father categorically denied having ever engaged in any homosexual behavior, although he did admit on cross-examination that he "might have possible homosexual traits and tendencies." (43) In Philadelphia, a man named Bob supported his partner Tony's efforts to reestablish contact with his children even though they both assumed that if the courts did let Tony see his children again, he would never be able to do so in his partner's presence. (44)

Family court judges often chastised lesbian and gay parents for their involvement in gay liberation political activism. Many judges saw these activities as sufficient cause for removal of custody. One man who was public about his gayness and active in gay liberation in the mid-1970s was barred from visiting his children by a New Jersey Superior Court in 1979, although experts testified to his devotion as a father. The court did allow the man three weeks with his children during the summer, but forbade him from engaging "in any homosexual activities." (43) Jeanne Jullion, who lost custody of her eldest son in a long court battle, felt continuously punished by the judicial system for her work as an activist. Jullion remembered that not only did the first judge she faced ask her for the names of all the women who worked on her defense committee, but a second judge made sure to open later proceedings with an admonishment to her for involving activist groups. "They never got over it," Jullion said, speaking of the reaction by the judge and opposing counsel to her activist work in the courtroom. (46) Court cases throughout these years reflected similar kinds of restrictions and criticisms aimed at keeping lesbian and gay parents from engaging in political activism, participating openly in the lesbian and gay community, or even associating with other lesbian and gay individuals, including their lovers and partners.

Because of the difficulty of winning a lesbian or gay custody case in the 1970s, many attorneys recommended strongly that their clients settle and not bring their cases to trial. Once in court facing allegations of homosexuality, the chances of a lesbian mother or gay father retaining custodial or parental rights was slim. However, with a well-prepared feminist attorney, lesbian mothers could sometimes settle before the ease went to trial. The Lesbian Mother Litigation Manual, developed by Donna Hitchens for the LRP cited judicial bias as one of the factors that "encourage an attempt at out of court resolution." (47) Faced with an increasing number of informed feminist and activist lawyers throughout the 1970s, attorneys for heterosexual ex-husbands often chose this option, frequently trading custody to lesbian mothers for an erasure of further paternal financial obligations. Rosalie Davies, who founded CALM with Mikki Weinstein in 1974, remembers that most cases she fought were settled out of court; she recalled many attorneys for the other side, expecting an easy win, settled quickly when faced with prepared lesbian-feminist council.(48) Another lesbian-feminist attorney who fought lesbian custody cases in the Midwest said in 1976 that she had represented women in over 40 cases, and they had all been settled out of court. (49) Katherine English, a legal worker with The Community Law Project in Portland, Oregon, estimated in 1979 that she knew of 80 to 100 custody cases in the Portland area where the same-sex orientation of gay and lesbian parents was an issue that had been settled out of court. (50)

The Importance of Expert Testimony

As courtrooms became battlegrounds, the lack of studies on children raised in gay or lesbian households played a decisive role in custody denials. Judges tended to follow the advice of expert witnesses hired by heterosexual ex-spouses, who often relied on outdated American psychological models. These models considered any sexual activity outside of heterosexuality to be psycho-sexually immature, deviant and/or pathological. In this period, despite the emergence of gay liberation movements, prominent clinical psychologists such as Irving Bieber and Charles Socarides were still claiming that homosexuality was a mental disease that could be "cured." The influence and longevity of these perspectives is evident in the testimony of expert witnesses hostile to lesbian and gay custody.

In Smith v. Smith (1977) for example, Dr. William Doidge, testifying for a heterosexual father fighting for custody, described his clinical experience with homosexuality as consisting of Air Force studies conducted from 1956 to 1958 on "whether homosexuality was allied with other psychopathology." In the case of In re Risher (1976), Dr. Robert Gordon, a psychologist for Mary Jo Risher's ex-husband, declared it "ridiculously poor behavior" for Risher, a known lesbian, to have allowed her son to attend classes at a local YWCA and to wear a "unisex" t-shirt. He believed "it would be much better for the mother to encourage ... masculine identifications." The doctor described Risher's oldest son as exhibiting "homosexual panic" and stressed the damage that Risher's lesbianism could have on her seemingly well-adjusted younger child, Richard, when he reached puberty. (51)

However, the range of professional opinions on homosexuality also began to diversify at this time. Psychologists who saw homosexuality as pathological represented only one part of a professional community that was divided over the question of sexual minorities and their rights. Since the publication of the reports on male and female sexuality in the United States authored by Alfred Kansey and Wardell Pomeroy in 1948 and 1953, there existed an increasing tendency, particularly in the disciplines of sociology and anthropology, to see homosexuality as a cross-cultural phenomenon in human societies. Dissident views gradually developed in American psychological circles over the issue of homosexuality affected by these new perspectives, as well as by the increasing agitation of lesbian and gay activists.

By the early 1970s, a group sympathetic to the struggles of lesbians and gay men had formed within the APA, an organization long dominated by clinicians who saw homosexuality as pathological. APA members Dr. Judd Marmor, Dr. Evelyn Hooker, and Dr. Richard Green argued against the pathological diagnosis of homosexuality advocated by psychiatrists like Socarides and Bieber, voicing doubts about whether all gay men and lesbians were, by definition, psychically disturbed. Many of those arguing against Socarides and Bieber were heavily influenced by Kinsey's work. Green, Hooker, and Marmor formed the group within the APA that ultimately defied Socarides and Bieber and spearheaded the 1973 vote to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. (52)

As lesbian mother and gay father custody battles increased in number and visibility, these changes in the psychological profession affected their outcomes. Just as psychiatrists sympathetic to the ideas of Bieber or Socarides testified that lesbians and gay men were "unfit" to be parents and would damage their children, other psychiatrists and sociologists began arguing on behalf of the custodial rights of gay or lesbian parents in court, declaring that there was no evidence that lesbian or gay sexuality made someone an unfit parent. Dr. Richard Green said later that for him, the struggle to remove homosexuality from the APAs list of mental disorders was directly linked to the assertion that having lesbian, or gay parents was not necessarily contrary to the "best interests of the child." For Green, the efforts to change anti-gay prejudice in both psychological and legal spheres "coalesced" in the first half of the 1970s. (53)

A year after he had participated in the APA debate, Green testified in an Ohio case, Hall v. Hall (1974), on behalf of a lesbian mother. Hall v. Half was an early victory for a lesbian parent. (54) As was common in lesbian and gay custody cases, the judge asked explicit questions regarding lesbianism during Green's testimony in the Ohio custody trial. The judge wanted to know, in determining if the woman was a fit mother, how Dr. Green thought "the sex act between lesbians was accomplished" and whether he considered oral copulation "normal." Green answered that although same-sex sexual orientation was statistically atypical, he believed that sexual orientation in itself had no bearing on "psychological health." The mother's attorney asked Dr. Green if he thought lesbians were capable of molesting their children. In response, he replied that child sexual abuse was statistically a heterosexual problem. (55)

Green also testified the next year in another Ohio case, Townend v. Townend. (56) Although he offered testimony similar to the earlier case, stressing how children of "homosexual parents" were not themselves likely to be gay, the lesbian mother in this case lost custody of her children. The judge declared that if the woman had "indicated that until her children were reared she would abandon the practice of lesbianism" he might have awarded her custody, but that the court could not afford to "experiment" with giving a known lesbian custody. Similarly, Dr. Bern ice Goodman testified on behalf of a New York lesbian mother who was nonetheless denied all visitation rights. (57) The inconsistent outcome of expert testimony sympathetic to the rights of lesbian and gay parents during the early 1970s depended greatly on the strength of a judge's personal bias. In her book, Courting Change: Queer Parents, Judges, and the Transformation of American Family Law, Kimberly Richman argues that while the "legal indeterminacy" of family law has permitted biased custody decisions it also offers LGBT family law activists a space to argue for new legal constructions of family. (58) In the 1970s, expert testimony negotiated the space that Richman identities and began rearticulating a vision of the proper family separate from the assumption of heterosexuality.

In the 1970s, activists campaigned to revise attitudes toward gay and lesbian parenting and sought professional support in doing so. In 1973, gay father Bruce Voeller, then president of the Gay Activist Alliance of New York and a founder of the NGTF, sent requests to several specialists on homosexuality asking them for a statement on gay and lesbian custodial rights. Those who replied included Dr. Evelyn Hooker, Dr. Judd Marmor, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Dr. John Money and Dr. Wardell Pomeroy, all of whom stated unequivocally that lesbians and gay men could be fit parents. The 1979 revised version of the Gay and Lesbian Parents Support Packet, which Voeller compiled from the letters of support for lesbian and gay custody rights, included comments from Dr. Richard Green and Audrey Steinhorn, a sympathetic New York area psychotherapist who advertised herself as having extensive experience caring for the needs of gay parents.(59)

Professional studies sympathetic to lesbian mothers and gay fathers supported these collaborative efforts between practitioners and activists. In 1973, Dr. Bernice Goodman compared a group of heterosexual and lesbian mothers over a two-year period. Goodman, a practicing psychotherapist in New York City, based her findings on her clients. "As of July 1,1975," she explained, her practice was "composed of 45 different lesbians seen at least once a week." Of the forty-five women, twelve were lesbian mothers and another seven were the partners of lesbian mothers. Goodman's study reported no negative impact on the children of lesbian mothers and suggested that in fact these children may have benefited from their childhood in lesbian households. Goodman, who was active on behalf of lesbian mothers, also presented a paper on the social victimization of lesbian mothers at a 1976 feminist event, the New York Tribunal on Crimes against Women held at Columbia University. (60) The same year, a scholarly study published by Martha Kirkpatrick, Ronald Roy, and Katherine Smith, based on interviews and tests conducted with twenty children of lesbian mothers in the greater Los Angeles area, found that none of the children's psychological issues concerning their patent's divorce "related to the mother's sexual choice." The study focused specifically on discrediting "red herrings often wielded as effective weapons during court custody challenges," including the idea that children living with gay parents would become gay themselves or would exhibit a reversal of gender roles and identity. (61)

Richard Green also contributed to the scholarly assault on anti-gay attitudes. Green had followed thirty-seven children, sixteen raised by transsexual parents (both male-to-female and female-to-male) and twenty-one children raised by homosexual parents. In a 1978 article on the study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Green specifically mentioned that the "children of the homosexual parents had mothers who were involved in child custody litigation with their ex-husbands." He reported that all the children in his study demonstrated heterosexual sexual identities and suffered little social stigma as a result of their parents' sexual orientation. (62) Unlike Bernice Goodman, who suggested possible advantages for children growing up in a lesbian household, Richard Green stressed only the similarities between children raised by heterosexual and homosexual parents. Through the 1980s, the standard argument by psychologists sympathetic to lesbian and gay parents was that lesbians and gay men raised children who did not differ in any significant way from those raised in single-parent heterosexual households. Green went on to cite his own work while testifying on behalf of several lesbian mothers.

By the early 1980s, then, psychiatrists sympathetic to lesbian and gay parenting rights who testified in court had several new empirical studies to cite that claimed lesbian mothers and gay fathers could be just as good as heterosexual parents. New scholarship continued to expand the body of usable evidence. In 1981, Martha Kirpatrick, Catherine Smith, and Ron Roy published further results from their ongoing study involving twenty children raised by lesbian mothers, now-structured along a comparative model with interviews of twenty children of single mothers. The study confirmed earlier findings that children of lesbian and heterosexual mothers experienced difficulties with divorce and the separation of their parents, hut that there was no difference in increased stress sustained by the children of lesbian mothers. (63) Although most of the studies conducted in this period compared lesbian mothers with heterosexual mothers, in 1981 Frederick Bozett, a therapist who had worked with, gay fathers as part of his own practice, published a sympathetic article on gay fathers. (64)

Studies such as these were an important factor in the slow changes in legal attitudes towards lesbian and gay parents during the late 1970s and 1980s, but the custody cases themselves and the activism of gay and lesbian communities had a continuing impact on the psychiatric profession as well. In 1979, Byron Nester, a child psychiatrist from Berkeley, California polled all members of a regional San Francisco Bay organization of child psychiatrists affiliated with the American Academy of Child Psychiatry. Nester's poll gives an historical picture of a profession in turbulent transition in a region that had already seen the rise of a very visible gay and lesbian rights movement, a few highly publicized lesbian custody cases, and the development of a widespread network of grassroots activism on behalf of lesbian mothers and gay fathers. Only fifteen percent of the child psychiatrists polled felt they would have to recommend a heterosexual parent over a homosexual parent in the matter of child custody. (65)

The Impact of the Custody Cases

The threat of losing one's children in a custody battle affected a whole generation of lesbian mothers and gay fathers who may never have seen the inside of a family court. For many parents not directly involved in a legal case, the possibility of losing custody of their children, or the tight to see them, was an ever-present threat. Overwhelmingly, legal activists agreed throughout the 1970s that women and men who kept their cases out of court were more likely to retain parental rights. (66) Media stories about custody loss publicized the precarious position in which gay fathers and lesbian mothers found themselves, increasing fear and trepidation. Marty Karls' recollection of his 1977 divorce reflects this widespread anxiety. After their separation, Karls' wife moved from San Francisco to New York, where they had both grown up. Karls remembers being terrified that he would lose his son and feeling powerless to stop his ex-wife from leaving the Bay Area: "There was no possibility of suing for rights ... of keeping her in California ... because I could be identified as a gay man." (67)

One woman said in an interview that "child custody threats are a constant harassment," while another woman described how she lived "in constant fear of loss of job and children and possible physical harm," if her lesbianism was discovered. (68) When the members of a lesbian mother support group in Cincinnati, Ohio were asked to send representatives to speak to a course on feminist theory at the University of Cincinnati in 1979, they wrote an anonymous statement to be read by a teaching assistant because they were too concerned with custody loss to appear in person. The group wrote: "We knew if we told you publicly who we were we would face the very real threat of losing out families and the jobs that support our families ... all of us at one time or another has had to deal directly with the probability of losing custody of our children in court." (69) Denise, divorced in 1980, worried that the father of her five-year old twins would keep them each time they went to visit him. At times she suspected he was prying to confirm his suspicions about her sexual orientation. (70) An ex-wife of a man who had come out as gay in the 1980s confirmed the salience of such fears by stating that "when he said he wanted to see the kids, I just laughed and told him I would go to court and tell everyone about him. That shut him up for good. (71)

Often lesbian mothers and gay fathers waived child support, refrained from living with their lovers, or allowed themselves to be coerced into informal arrangements to appease ex-spouses and avoid a custody battle. Alex described how he and his wife had reached an informal agreement that gave him custody but left Alex unable to petition for legal divorce. As he explained: "I stopped the legal divorce because I was afraid she might change her mind about my having the children and that if she pointed out to the court that I'm gay there wouldn't he much chance of me keeping the kids."(72) Becky Logan, who raised her daughter in upstate New York, later regretted her honesty about her lesbianism with her ex-husband when they decided to separate in 1973, because "I knew that he could go to court and get the kids because I was a lesbian." Logan remembers never asking her ex-husband for child support, even when she lacked money to buy her children basic necessities, out of fear that she could lose custody of her children as a lesbian mother. (73)

Lesbian mothers and gay fathers who had won custody or visitation rights were also kept in fear by the fact that decisions in many states could always be reassessed based on a showing by one of the parties of a "material change in circumstances." Any new information that an appeals court deemed significant could endanger an original ruling, and same-sex orientation was often ruled to be a legitimate reason to reopen a case. If an ex-spouse claimed to have discovered a lesbian mother or gay father's sexuality or had remarried and could present the new option of a heterosexual, nuclear household, judges could decide to hear their arguments for a change in custody. This threat of a renewed custody battle based on sexual orientation kept many lesbian mothers and gay fathers who had preserved some measure of custody or visitation in fear and unable to take part in lesbian or gay community activities. (74)

Lesbian mothers and gay fathers who lived in isolated, often conservative, rural, areas, far from lesbian and gay activist networks, were particularly afraid. One woman from North Carolina wrote to a national lesbian periodical in 1976, asking chat her name be taken off the mailing list. She had just taken her children and left her husband, who was "looking for any shred of evidence" that would show she was an "unfit mother," and she was concerned that the periodical "would certainly convince these backwoods judges of my 'immorality.'" The woman also asked that her partner, who was in a similar situation, he taken off the mailing list. (75) Many gay men and lesbians also lived with the fear that their biological families would try to take their children away in court if they learned about their sexual orientation. One woman from New York, speaking on the radio in the late 1970s, said about her nine-year old daughter that "my relatives would probably steal her if they knew I was a lesbian ... They're that backwards." (76)

Legal Changes

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, lesbian mothers and gay fathers began to win some important custody victories across the country at the appellate and state supreme court levels. These victories were brought about by the combined efforts of sympathetic expert witnesses like Dr. Richard Green, John Money, and Wardell Pomeroy and the work of community activists and attorneys fighting for the rights of lesbian mothers and gay fathers. By the end of the 1970s, attorneys who supported gay and lesbian rights, aided by groups like the ACLU's Sexual Privacy Project and the LRP in San Francisco, began to consolidate their arguments against homophobia and to win cases on appeal. (77)

Throughout this period, lesbian and gay activists both longed for and dreaded the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court might hear a case on lesbian or gay parenting rights. On the one hand, a favorable ruling on either an expanded constitutional right to privacy protecting same-sex sexuality in general or on lesbian or gay parenting rights specifically would have been welcomed. On the other hand, as the Supreme Court became increasingly conservative in the mid-1980s, many gay and lesbian activists were relieved that it had not taken up a gay or lesbian parenting case. This was especially true as attitudes in some state courts began to shift in their favor. Nonetheless, legal activists continued to argue in court that constitutional rights were involved in gay and lesbian custody cases, including the right to privacy and the due process and equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Custody cases in the 1980s had mixed outcomes, but in some states there were signs of legal change and increasing judicial comfort with the issue of lesbian and gay parenting rights. In a few states, state supreme courts ruled in favor of lesbian mothers or gay fathers. The Michigan high court, for example, ruled in 1979 in favor of Margareth Miller, who had been fighting through state courts for two and a half years for custody of her daughter, Jillian. Four lower courts had all ruled against Miller. In overturning the earlier denials, the Michigan State Supreme Court stated that sexuality should not be a consideration in custody decisions. (78)

In many early victories that followed, state supreme courts, which were normally loath to interfere in family court matters, reminded the lower courts that they were obliged by the "best interests" statute to give a measured assessment to all factors in a case and that in denying custody to a lesbian mother or gay father, they must show a specific connection, or "nexus," between the parent's sexual orientation and possible harm to the child. In Schuster v. Schuster (1978) and Isaacson v. Isaacson (1978), the Washington State Supreme Court allowed lesbian mothers Madeleine Isaacson and Sandy Schuster to continue living together, despite an earlier ruling mandating that they maintain separate residences. The court ruled that no specific "nexus" had been shown to suggest that the lesbianism or the two mothers posed any danger to their children. (79) In 1986, the New York State Supreme Court awarded a gay man custody of his twelve year-old son, finding no proven, detrimental effect of gay or lesbian households on the children growing up in them. The court said that in this case the father's sexual orientation was not contrary to the "best interests of the child." (80) Similar decisions were made during this period in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Alaska. (81) These state supreme court rulings were merely statements that lesbians and gay men could not be deprived of custody based de facto on their same-sex orientation rather than assertions that the rights of lesbian and gay parents warranted specific legal protection. Nonetheless, these decisions in favor of lesbian mothers and gay fathers, even when based solely on a "best interests" statute, provided a legal history that attorneys arguing for lesbian and gay parental rights could cite.

Although these cases did offer a judicial precedent in favor of lesbian and gay parental rights, this did not mean that discriminatory custody denials were impossible in these same states. Lesbian mothers and gay fathers continued to lose custody of their children, as waves or backlash against lesbian and gay civil rights washed over the state courts. In 1985, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned an earlier ruling and denied a gay man both custody of his ten year-old daughter and any visitation in the presence of another gay man. The ruling echoed earlier decisions by arguing that exposure to "his immoral and illicit" relationship with his male partner rendered this father "an unfit and improper custodian as a matter of law." The man had fought for custody of his daughter for six years in a suit with his ex-wife, who had claimed that proximity to a gay relationship would be harmful to their daughter. (82) In M.J.P v. S.P., the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling transferring custody away from a lesbian mother based on stigma the boy might suffer as a result of his mother living in a same-sex relationship. Lower court rulings were equally mixed. In 1991, the Illinois Second District Court of Appeals upheld a family court ruling that had denied a woman the custody of her daughter because the mother "was living with another woman." (83)

As attorneys and legal groups such as the ACLU argued for the rights of lesbian mothers and gay fathers they drew analogies between the rights of lesbian and gay parents and interracial families, drawing on the legal victories of the Black freedom struggle. When arguing against, custody denials to lesbian and gay parents on the grounds of a perceived danger of stigma facing the child, they often cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Palmore v. Sidoti. In this 1984 case, the court struck down a District Court of Appeals ruling that upheld a Florida court's decision to take custody away from a woman who remarried into an interracial relationship. In taking away the woman's parental rights, the lower courts had argued that the child would be subject to stigmatization for having a biracial family. Attorneys representing lesbian and gay parents argued that the same logic that the high court employed in Palmer v. Sidoti went against, the "stigma" argument that bad been used in lesbian and gay custody struggles. (84) However, in the absence of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on lesbian and gay custody rights, supportive attorneys could only argue the comparison in amid briefs and hope that family courts would find the argument compelling.

During the 1980s, the U.S. Supreme Court: failed to address the issues of lesbian and gay parents, but there is evidence that the justices of the high court were aware of the impending legal issues surrounding lesbian and gay parenting rights. In her confirmation hearings in 1981, Sandra Day O' Connor sidestepped a question regarding her stance on lesbian and gay rights by conservative Alabama Republican Senator Jeremiah Denton by saying that "cases concerning the rights of people who are homosexuals in connection with being deprived of a position as an employee or having custody of children" were "very confused" at a lower court level and that she foresaw that the high court would "indeed be asked to rule" on these "unsettling" issues in the future. O'Connor's mention of lesbian and gay parenting rights marked the first time a Supreme Court nominee or justice had publicly acknowledged the legal issues related to lesbian and gay parents and custody. (85) In that same year, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case of a lesbian mother when the Kentucky Court of Appeals transferred custody of her five-year old daughter to the father, arguing that the mother's lesbianism represented a potential danger to the child.(86)

Although the high court would not specifically address the rights of gay and lesbian parents during these years, it did undermine their chances of gaining custody through its 1986 ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick. In its majority 5-4 opinion upholding Georgia's anti-sodomy law, the Court ruled that gay men and lesbians enjoyed no specific rights of privacy or intimacy such as those held by heterosexual partners. Although the case dealt explicitly only with the rights of individual gay men and lesbians to engage in sexual activity free from state control, its implications were very important for lesbian and gay parents. In Bowers, enumerating the rights of privacy previously accorded by the court to American citizens, Justice Byron White included the rights of "procreation" and "family relationships." He went on to state however, char "no connection between family, marriage, or procreation on the one hand and homosexual activity on the other has been demonstrated, either by the Court of Appeals or by respondent." In placing lesbians and gay men outside the legal definition of family and denying them any right to domestic privacy, justice White and the rest of the majority left lesbian and gay parents at the mercy of the biases of family court judges. (87)

It remains to be seen if the 2003 reversal of Bowers in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) has significantly aided lesbian and gay parents in their struggle for civil rights, but it is likely that the expanded definition of "home" and "privacy" spelled out by the court makes it harder for family court judges to justify condemnation of gay and lesbian parents. The rights of privacy extended to lesbians and gay men in the Lawrence decision will inevitably affect the parental rights of lesbians and gay men and offer new developments in the history presented here.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the threat of custody loss and estrangement from their children kept lesbian mothers and gay fathers in fear and hidden. When large numbers of lesbian mothers and gay fathers came out in the liberation era, they challenged society's unspoken assumption that same-sex sexual orientation and parenting were mutually exclusive and that lesbian mothers and gay fathers represented pathological threats to their children's well-being. Custody case proceedings and the atmosphere of fear they generated among lesbians and gay men from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s are evidence of a strong state investment in keeping the family heterosexual. (88) This investment was strengthened by various social conceptions of the "homosexual": that a gay man or lesbian was more likely to sexually molest their children, that the children of lesbians and gay men would face dehabilitating social stigma, and that gay men and lesbians would "pass on" their sexual orientation to their children. The open struggle for lesbian and gay parents to retain custody or visitation rights pushed these assumptions and conceptions into the open, as they were expressed by judges, lawyers, and the media reporting on these cases.

Lesbians and gay men who countered these assumptions in court were part of a larger resistance movement that challenged heterosexist, racist, and misogynistic attitudes about the proper structure of the American family. Local grass-roots organizations sprung up in lesbian and gay communities across the nation to advise and support men and women fearful of losing custody of their children.(89) These organizations also made connections with activists and attorneys challenging the forced sterilization of women of color and poor women, fighting for the right of all women to affordable, legal abortions and birth control, and advocating for the rights of families on welfare. The open denial of lesbian and gay parental rights in the 1970s and the strength of the social and legal prohibitions against the proximity of children to non-normative sexuality fueled organizing for the legal and social recognition of non-heterosexual families. The difficulty of this struggle galvanized large parts of the gay and lesbian community and a new activist focus coalesced around these snuggles. This political work, the national networks it engendered, and the success it began to have paved the way for an even greater emphasis on lesbian and gay adoption, parenting rights, and marriage. After 1985, through the expansion of many of these networks and the growth of legal, social, and political institutions born of these concerns, the modern LGBT freedom struggle increasingly made a priority of family and domestic rights, until these lay at the center of the movement by the end of the twentieth century.

Though this shift involved a great many social and cultural factors, the period of the earliest custody battles was a crucial part of it. (90) Prior to the gay liberation era, the deep cultural understanding of the family as inherently heterosexual was so widely assumed and accepted as to be almost unassailable. In this period, lesbians and gay men could only be parents by raising their children in secret or by living double lives. As women and men came out in large numbers, both as lesbians or gay men and as parents, the idea of the family as naturally and always heterosexual was exposed as just that, an idea or a social construction. As such, it had to be asserted, which judges, courts, psychiatrists, religious figures did, along with the heterosexual spouses and relatives of the lesbians and gay men lighting for custody. The ideological and social battle that ensued was extremely difficult, and the front that was fought in the courtroom during those early decades was filled with losses. It was these losses and the difficult but persistent struggle against them that focused the attention and resources of LGBT communities towards domestic and family civil rights, a tendency that only gained momentum after 1985 as the legal and social tide began to turn in the direction of greater acceptance for non-heterosexual families. After nearly twenty years of legal struggle, lesbians, gay men, and their advocates, had successfully begun to chip away at the previously hegemonic notion that only heterosexual people were fit to be parents. By 1985, courts and judges began to register this ideological shift in their legal decisions.


I would like to thank some of chose whose help and support I have beneficed from in writing this article. I want to express my deepest gratitude to my participants, without whom this paper would not have been possible. I would also like to thank my mentor Estelle Freed man, whose guidance and insight have beer, invaluable to me, Jessica Delgado, who read and commenced on countless drafts of tins paper, and my colleagues at Smith College, where 1 have revised this article as a postdoctoral fellow in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender, Finally, my thanks to the archivists at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn, The GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, The Human Sexuality Collection at Cornell University, The One Institute arid Archives in Los Angeles, and Jenny Sayward, for their time, energy, and commitment: in the preserving of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transfer history.

(1.) Nadler v. Nalder, 255 C.A. 2d 523; 63 Cal Reporter 352. See also court transcript of Nadler v. Nadler, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Tapers 1954-2000, Box 124, Folder 18. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Historical Society of Northern California, hereafter cited as GLBTHS.

(2.) I discuss in detail this transition in the period from 1985 to 2003 in my dissertation, Daniel Rivers, "Radical Relations: A History of Lesbian and Gay Parents and their Children, 1945-2003" (PhD dissertation, Stanford University, 2007).

(3.)On court ordered estrangement, of gay lathers from their children, see Robert L. Barret and Bryan E. Robinson, Gay Fathers (Lexington, MA, 1990), 68.

(4.) One judge dissenting in a Washington Supreme Court ruling granting two lesbian mothers the right to live together with their children from a previous marriage cited an earlier ruling in that state against a gay man who fought to keep his teaching job in Tacoma, Washington, writing: "I am unable to understand how the court can declare that: a schoolteacher who only admitted his preference as a homosexual and did nor engage in any overt, act is guilty of immorality, and yet, in the instant, case, we can find perfectly moral the conduct of the respondents." "2 Lesbian Mothers Win in Court," Gaysweek, 25 October 1978.

(5.) For an excellent overview of these changes and their impact on the courts from the perspective of a clinical psychologist, see Dr. Laura Benkov, Reinventing the Family. Lesbian and Gay Parents (New York, 1994), 9-12, 34-8l.

(6.) Occasionally, local religious figures involved with the Christian Right would ally themselves with ex-spouses and attempt to persuade judges that letting a gay father or a lesbian mother spend time with their children was morally wrong and tantamount to child abuse.

(7.) A number of the states where lesbian and gay parenting cases continued to appear in the 1990s were also states that retained their sodomy laws until they were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003.

(8.) Joe Acanfora, the plaintiff in Aconfora v. Board of Education of Montgomery County, the first case involving the firing of a teacher for sexual, orientation to reach the Supreme Court, had his termination upheld by a federal judge on the basis that he had given public interviews about the case. The Supreme Court later refused to hear the case, leaving Acanfora without legal recourse. Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price, Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. The Supreme Court (New York, 2001), 179. For a detailed history of the struggles of lesbian and gay teachers in the courts, see Jackie M. Blount, Fit To Teach: Same-Sex Desire, Gender, and School Work in the Twentieth Century (Albany, NY, 2005).

(9.) In my dissertation, I argue that many social changes in the United States that we have categorized as a "sexual revolution" can be seen as part of a "family revolution." This social revolution included broad cultural .shifts in the way that family was popularly conceived as well as political and legal changes. Rivets, "Radical Relations."

(10.) For example, while Protestant Anglo reformers of the early twentieth century were concerned with a low birthrate among white, educated, propertied women, they advocated compulsory sterilization and castration for the poor. Elaine Tyler May, Warren in the Promised Land (New York, 1995), 96-108.

(11.) These changes also accompanied a rise in divorce rates beginning in the first decades of the twentieth century. See Mary Ann Mason, From Father's Property to Children's Rights (New York, 1994), xiii, 114. See also Nancy Cott, Public Vows: A History of Marriage arid the Nation (Cambridge, MA, 2000), 107.

(12.) Mary Ann Mason, The Custody Wars (New York, 1999), .3. For contemporary news accounts of single fathers groups and a discussion of the advancement of paternal custody rights, see "And Now ... Equal Rights For Father." San Francisco Examine & Chronicle, 3 June 1977, and Caroline Drewes', "When Daddy Gets Custody of the Kids," San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle, 1 8 June 1978.

(13.) The transition from "maternal preference" to a gender-blind "best interests" philosophy was haphazard and varied from state to state. In a 1979 study, 48 percent of California family lawyers surveyed said that they would still caution, all fathers against seeking custody. Barrel and Robinson, Gay Fathers, 6.

(14.) Panzino v. Panzino. N.J. Super. Ct., Chancery Div., Gloucester County, September 23 1977.

(15.) Judge Ross Campbell, "Child Custody: When One Patent is a Homosexual," Judge's Journal (17) 2 (Spring 1978).

(16.) Guy Gifford with Mary Jo Risher, By Her Own Admission: A Lesbian Mother's Fight to Keep Her Son (Garden City, NJ, 1977). Dr. Richard Green was asked, while testifying on behalf of a lesbian mother in 1974, about possible stigma faced by the children of lesbian or say parents by the attorney tot the woman's ex-husband. Richard Green, Sexual Science and the Law (Cambridge, MA, 1992), 37-38.

(17.) For a discussion of the assumption of the danger of sexual molestation in the case of lesbian mothers and gay fathers, see R.A Basile, "Lesbian Mothers I," Women's Law Reporter, (2) 2 (December 1974): 9 and Marilyn Riley, "The Avowed Lesbian Mother And Her Right To Child Custody: A Constitutional Right That Can No Longer Re Denied," San Diego Law Review (12) 4 (1975): 853.

(18.) Gifford with Risher, Fix Her Own Admission, 271 On the Mary Jo Risher case generally, see Mary Jo Risher Special Collection 99-35. Lesbian Herstory Archives, Brooklyn, New York, hereafter cited as LHA.

(19.) On the Cynthia Forcier case, see undated New Women's Times article in LHA Subject File: "Lesbian Mothers--Custody Issues 08100" and Sharon McDonald, "Lesbian Mothers: in Court," LHA Subject Files: "Lesbian Mothers--Custody Issues 08100." See also Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Papets 1954-2000, Box 124, Folder 9. GLBTHS.

(20.) Robert Johnson, interview by author, Pasadena, California, 18 June 200.3.

(21.) Karlis Streips, "Sexuality is Crux of Visitation Dispute," Gay Life (Chicago), 9 December 1982: 8.

(22.) Letter from Donna Hitchens to the Lesbian Mothers' National Defense Fund, dated February 5, 1979. The Lesbian Mothers' National Defense Fund Files. Hereafter referred to as LMNDF Files. Copies of all LMNDF Files materials ate in author's possession

(23.) Letter to the LMNDF dared September 30, 1985. LMNDF Files.

(24.) Earnestine Blue, interview with Shad Reinstein and Jody Lane, July 24, 2005, Seattle, Washington. See also, Mom's Apple Pie: the Heart of the Lesbian Mother's Custody Movement. Directed by Shad Reinstein and Jody Lane (Seattle: Three Big Dykes Productions, 2006).

(25.) Brent Whiting, "Phoenix Lesbian Wins Custody of Young Daughters from Court," The Arizona Republic, April 14, 1980: Al.

(26.) Jill Clark, "Lesbian Mother Fights for Son," Gay Community News (Boston), 9 August 1980, 1.

(27.) Sodomy laws have also been used historically to justify other forms of legal discrimination against sexual minorities. In 1979, Richard Longstaff, a legal immigrant to the United Stares from England who had opened a clothing business, in Texas after a decade of living in the U.S., was denied citizenship based on the criminality or his assumed sexual activity as a gay man. Longstaff appealed the 5th Circuit decision to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case. In 1978, Oklahoma legislators passed the Helms Bill authored by Oklahoma State Senator Mary Helms. The bill used Oklahoma's "crime against nature" anti-sodomy stature to bar any lesbian or gay teacher from working in Oklahoma's public schools. In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional. Murdoch and Price, Courting justice, 233, 252. Sodomy laws arid "sexual psychopath" laws were also used sporadically throughout the postwar era to round up "sexual deviants" in regional gay purges that left hundreds of men jailed, incarcerated in menial facilities, or with their lives ruined through publicity and social vilification. On the history of sodomy statutes and their use to police lesbians and gay men throughout the twentieth century, see Mary Bernstein, "Abominable and Detestable": Understanding Homophobia and the Criminalization of Sodomy," in The Blackwell Companion to Criminology, ed. Colin Sumner (Oxford, 2004), 309-324 and "Liberalism and Social Movement Success: The Case of the United States Sodomy Statures," in Regulating Sex: The Politico of Intimacy and Identity, eds. Elizabeth Bernstein and Laurie Schaffner (New York, 2005), 3-18.

(28.) Published in 1975, the ACLU handbook The Rights of Gay People reported that eight out of the fifty states had repealed their sodomy laws. E. Carrington et al. eds. The Rights of Gay People: The Basic ACLU Guide To A Gay Person's Rights (New York, 1975), 138. On Illinois' 1961 repealing of their sodomy law and activism against the law in the 1920s see Henry Gerber "The Society for Human Rights," One Magazine, September 1962.

(29.) At the time of the Lawrence decision, these laws remained in fourteen U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. military. Of these districts, four states-Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Missouri-had laws which applied only to homosexual conduct.

(30.) "A Display of Homophobia in Appeals Court," Be Advocate, 12 March 197.5. On Chaffin v. Frye see Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Papers 19.54-2000, Box 124, holder 7 and Folder 8, GLBTHS. California's law against oral copulation between consenting adults was repealed in. May of the same year, just two months after the Chaffin decision.

(31.) Roe v. Roe, 228 Va. 722 (1985).

(32.) See court transcript of Nutter v. Nadler, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Papers 1954-2000, Box 124, Folder 18. GLBTHS.

(33.) Attorneys who fought lesbian mothers for their parental rights in court would play upon these heterosexist fears in the courtroom. When Dr. Richard Green offered expert testimony on the part of Sarah Hall, opposing counsel interrogated him as to whether the child had "admitted" to witnessing acts of affection between her mother and her mother's partner. The attorney for the lesbian mother's ex-husband asked Dr. Green if he had asked the child if she had ever witnessed the women in graphical sex acts. Testimony of Dr. Richard Green, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Papers 1954-2000, Box 124, Folder 10. GLBTHS. The same two topics were intertwined in the interrogation of Ellen Nadler by opposing counsel as well as the judge. See court transcript of Nadler v. Nadler 255 C.A. 2d 523; 63 Cal. Rptr. 352, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Papers 1954-2000, Box 124, Folder 18. GLBTHS.

(34.) On the issues surrounding the constitutional rights of association and privacy in the case of lesbian and gay parents, see Henna F Armanno, "The Lesbian Mother: Her Right To Child Custody," Golden Gate University Law Review (4) 1 (Fall 1973): 15; see also Marilyn Riley, "The Avowed Lesbian Mother And Her Right To Child Custody: A Constitutional Challenge That Can No Longer Be Denied," San Diego Law Review (12)4 (July 197.5): 842.

(35.) Jill Lippett, interview by author, Jenner, California, 5 December 2003.

(36.) M. v. M., (Cal. Super. Ct. Santa Clara Cty. June 8, 1972). See also an interview with Cam Mitchell in CFC: A Weekly Communication to the People, July 10, 197 3, 4-5. LHA Subject File: "Lesbian Mothers Newspaper Articles" 08210.

(37.) Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Papers 1954-2000, Box 124, Folder 5. GLBTHS.

(38.) Spencer'. Durham, 283 N.C. 671, 198 S.EZd 537. The silence of the court about the particular nature of Susan Spence's crime was remedied in this case in the dissenting opinion, written by Justice Lake. Justice Lake apparently took great exception to the awarding of custody to an individual he called a "sexual deviant."

(39.) On Isaacson v. Isaacson and Schuster v. Schuster, see Off Our Backs (Feb 1978); "Lesbian Mothers Win Suit Over Custody of Children," New York Times. 5 September 1974; and Seattle Gay Community News. 28 July 1979; see also Patricia Leitch. "Custody: Lesbian Mothers in the Courts," Gonzaga Law Review (16) 1 (1980): 166 and Donna Hitchens and Ann Thomas, Lesbian Mothers and their Children: An Annotated Bibliography of Legal and Psychological Materials, 2nd ed. (San Francisco, 1983), 20 LHA Subject Files Overflow: "Lesbian Mothers - Papers, Studies 2" 08240.

(40.) "Custody Defeat," Gay Community News (Boston), 17 January 1976, 2.

(41.) In re Jane B. (1976). 85 Misc. 2d 315; 380 N.Y.S.2d 848; 1976 N.Y. Misc.

(42.) "Fleischer v. Fleischer," New York Law Journal, (10 November 1975): 10.

(43.) A v. A, Or. App. 514 P 2d. 358.

(44.) M. Tway Smith, "Gay Daddies: They Fight Ex-Wives Hostility and a Biased Court System," Go)' News (Philadelphia), 27 June-10 July 1980, 24.

(45.) 129 N.J. Super. 486, 324 A.2d 90.

(46.) Jeanne Jullion, interview by author, Oakland, California, 21 May 2002.

(47.) Donna Hitchens. J.D, Lesbian Mother Litigation Manual (Sao Francisco, 1932), 38. Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Papers 1954-2000, Box 124, Folder 3. GLBTHS. There is also a copy of the first edition of the manual in the LMKDF Files.

(48.) Rosalie Davies, interview by author, Haverford, Pennsylvania, September 12, 2002.

(49.) Lois Thetford, "Report," Mom's Apple Pie, July 1976, 5.

(50.) "Custody Rights for Gay Parents," The Fountain, March 1979. National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Records, Box 88, File: "Clippings, 1974-1980" Human Sexuality Collection, Cornell University Archives.

(51.) Both cases quoted in Donna Hitchens and Barbara Price, "Trial Strategy in Lesbian Mother Custody Cases: The Use of Expert Testimony," Golden Gate University Law Review (9) 2: 451-479.

(52.) For a derailed discussion by Dr. Judd Manner and Barbara Cuttings of their recollections of this struggle with in the APA, see Eric Marcus, Making Gay History (New York, 1992), 178-183; see also Ronald Bayer. Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics n) Diagnosis (New York, 1981)

(53.) Dr. Richard Green, interview by author, San Francisco, California, 22 April 2006.

(54.) Hall v. Hall, No. 55900, Ohio C.P. Court Domestic Relations Div., Licking County, October 31 1974.

(55.) Richard Green, M.D., Sexual Science and the Lane (Cambridge, MA: 1992), 31. Sec also materials on Hall v. Hall, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Papers 1954-2000, Box 124, Folder 10. GLBTHS.

(56.) Townend v. Tounend, No. 74 CV 0670, Court of Common Pleas, Portage County, Ohio, April 4, 1975.

(57.) Bernice Goodman, The Lesbian: A Celebration of Difference (New York, 1977), 44.

(58.) Kimberly Richman, Courting Change: Queer Parents. Judges, and the Transformation of American Family Law (New York, 2009). In my dissertation, I situate these family late activists within a larger context of gay and lesbian parental activism and networks, which worked to challenge and change existing definitions of the family, berth within and outside of the courtroom. Rivers, "Radical Relations."

(59.) Copy of 1973 NGTF Gay Parent Support Packet with letters in LHA Subject Files Overflow: "Lesbian Mothers Custody Issues 08110 Overflow." A 1979 revised version of the support packet can be found in the ONE Archives Subject Files: "Gay Parents II." ONE Institute and Archives, Los Angeles. The NGTF was later known as The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

(60.) Bernice Goodman, "The Lesbian Mother," American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 43 (1973): 283-284. See also Bernice Goodman, The Lesbian: A Celebration of Difference (New York, 1977).

(61.) See "A New Look At Lesbian Mothers," Human Behavior (5)8 (August 1976): 60-61.

(62.) Richard Green, M.D. "Sexual Identity of 17 Children Raised by Homosexual or Transsexual Parents," American Journal of Psychiatry (135) 6 (June 1978): 692.

(63.). Martha Kirpatrick, M.D. et. ah., "Lesbian Mothers and Their Children: A Comparative Survey," American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (51)3 (July 1981): 545-551.

(64.) Ellen Lewin, "Lesbianism and Motherhood: Implications for Child Custody," Human Organization (40) I (Spring 1981): 6-14; Frederick Bozett, R.N., D.N.S., "Gay Fathers: Evolution of the Gay-Father Identity" American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (51)3 (July 1981): 552-559.

(65.) Bryon Nestor, "Attitudes of Child Psychiatrists toward Homosexual Parenting and Child Custody," Conciliation Courts Review (17) 2 (September 1979): 21-23.

(66.) In the lesbian-feminist classic Sappho Was a Right-on Woman (New York, 1972) authors Sidney Abbott and Barbara Love wrote that "the most acute legal problem facing many lesbians is the one facing lesbian mothers. In any child custody case lesbianism is grounds for being declared an unfit mother." (57).

(67.) Marry Karls, interview by author, San Francisco, California, 9 August 2004.

(68.) Barbara S. Bryant, "Lesbian Mothers," (master's thesis, California State University at Sacramento, 1975), 148.

(69.) Anonymous, "Lesbian Mothers Presentation," Dinah (Cincinnati, Ohio), March 1979: 11. Periodical Collection, LHA.

(70.) Rosemary Armao, "3 Million Children Have Homosexual Parents: More Gay Parents Turning to Courts," Los Angeles Times, Thursday 26 November 1981.

(71.) Barret and Robinson, Cry Fathers, 112.

(72.) The Boston Women's Health Collective, Ourselves and Our Children: A Book by and for Parents (New York. 1978), 173.

(73.) Becky Logan, interview by author, Seattle, Washington, 1.3 May 2005.

(74.) Hitchens, J.D., Lesbian Mother Litigation Manual, 9; in 1978 several activists from the lesbian mother group Dykes and Tykes discussed how the fear of a reopened case based on a "material change in circumstance" affected lesbian mothers on a radio show in New York. "Dykes and Tykes Legal Custody Center," The Real Live Lesbian Show, WBAI New York, WBAI Collection, SPW Audio Files LHA.

(75.) Letter, Lesbian Connection 2 (6):21.

(76.) "Lesbian Mother's Day," Everywoman's Space, WBAI New York, WBAI Collection, SPW Audio Files LHA.

(77.) The first time that the ACLU acted on behalf of a lesbian or a gay man in a custody battle was in 1971, when Anne Elwell represented Jerry Purpura, a gay father who was fighting for custody of his children in New Jersey. See "Homosexual Barred From Seeing Sons," Sunday .Record (Hackensack, New Jersey) 15 April 1973. The second case was that of Sally Hall, a lesbian mother. The ACLU provided Hall with an attorney. This effort was spearheaded by Marilyn Haft and The Sexual Rights Project of the ACLU. See "Lesbian Mother Fights Court" in Tire Syracuse Sun, Sun, 6-19 Feb 1974. See also letters from Marilyn Haft to Del Martin concerning the Hall case, Phyllis Lyon and Del Mat-tin Papers 1954-2000, Box 124, Folder 10. GLBTHS.

(78.) In the original ruling against Miller. Judge Frederick Ziem said that the mother's behavior was "immoral" and "a major consideration" and overlooked the eleven-year old daughter's request to live with her mother. Women and Revolution, Journal of the Women's Commission of the .Sparticist League (Spring 1979) LHA Subject Files "Lesbian Mothers - Custody Issues 08100."

(79.) Seattle Gay Committer; News, 28 July 1979.

(80.) M.A.B. v R.B. 510 N.Y.S.2d 960 (Sup.Ct. 1986); See also "Gay Father Wins Custody Battle," Workers World Newspaper 23 October 1986.

(81.) Medeiros it Medeiros, 8 Family L. Rptr. 2372 (Vt. Super. Ct. 1982); Bezio v. Patenaude, 410 N.E.2d 1207 (Mass. S.J.C. 1980); S.N.E.v. R.L.B., 699 P.2d 875 (Alaska, 1985). In the Alaska case, the Alaska Supreme Court held that it was unconstitutional under state law to deny a lesbian mother custody based on a perceived danger of stigma to the children

(82.) "Virginia Supreme Court Says Gay Father 'Until'," The Washington Blade, I January 1985.

(83.) "Court Rules Gay People May Be Denied Custody of Children." The New York Native, 9 December 1991. The Circuit Court judge who had delivered the original ruling reportedly stated that he would have given the mother custody if it was not for the fact that she was in a lesbian relationship.

(84.) Palmer v. Sidotti, 466 U.S. 429 (1984).

(85.) Murdoch and Price, Courting Justice, 214.

(86.) Jil Clark, "High Court Justice Giants Stay in Custody Case," Gay Community News, 21 March 1981; on the denial of certiorari see National Center for Lesbian Rights, A State by Stare Guide to Child Custody (San Francisco, 1996), 32-33. LMNDF Files.

(87.) For an excellent discussion of Bowers and its impact on gay and lesbian rights in the United States, see Morris Kaplan, Sexual Justice: Democratic Citizenship and the Politics of Desire (New York, 1997), 207-238.

(88.) Historian Nancy Cott argues that legal and political advocacy for monogamous, heterosexual marriage has been commonplace in the twentieth century. Cott, Public Vows.

(89.) The history of lesbian mother and gay father organizing is the subject of the fourth and fifth chapters of my dissertation. Rivers, "Radical Relations."

(90.) Estelle Freedman has compellingly argued that the struggles of life partners of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s also helped drive the focus on domestic/parental/marital rights in the modern LGBT freedom struggle. Feminism, Sexuality, and Politics: Essays by Estelle B. Freedman (Chapel Hill, 2006), 192.

Daniel Rivers, "'In the Best Interests of the Child': Lesbian and Gay Parenting Custody Cases, 1967-1985"

By Daniel Rivers

Smith College

Program for the. Study of Women, and Gender

Northampton, MA 01063
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