States Clash Over Same-Sex Parental Rights
Four years ago, when courts in Vermont began recognizing the legality of same-sex civil unions, it was only a matter of time before cases came along to test whether sister states would give full faith and credit to those decisions.
One of the earliest cases to raise that issue is a same-sex parental rights challenge that has provoked a jurisdictional debate between Virginia and Vermont. According to an attorney for New York-based Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, it is also one of the earliest cases to test how state courts will respond to orders that derive from the legality of civil unions.
The main legal issue is whether a civil union, without more, creates a parental relationship. Application of the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, which prevents a parent from filing a cutsody case in another state in order to avoid the jurisdiction or an adverse order of the original state, will be crucial. State and federal “defense of marriage” acts will also be relevant.
According to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, 40 states have passed laws prohibiting same-sex marriage since President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1995.
Only three states recognize same-sex unions. They are Vermont; Hawaii, which offers reciprocal benefits; and Massachusetts, which allows same-sex marriage.