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Some states struggling to adjust to same-sex marriage ruling

Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land in the U.S., after this summer’s Supreme Court ruling. This ruling has important implications for the several states that previously limited marriage to heterosexual couples. For instance, it likely means that all states must grant divorces to married couples that file for one, no matter the spouses’ genders.

This will lead many states into uncharted territory. Until statutes have been adjusted for this new reality, seemingly absurd rulings could result, such as a recent case in which a woman was denied child custody or visitation rights because she is not the biological mother of her son.

As the Associated Press reports, the woman’s former wife gave birth to the boy six months before the two women got married. The marriage lasted less than a year. The non-biological mother contends that she meets the standards of paternity and should be considered the boy’s father for legal purposes.

At some point following the divorce, the biological mother stopped giving her ex-wife access to the boy. The non-biological mother sued for visitation rights in February 2013, but lost. She appealed, and late in August the state court of appeals upheld the lower court decision.

The court’s decision said the judges were bound by the laws of their state, which lacks clarity on child custody disputes involving former same-sex couples. As it is now, the decision said, the non-biological mother is technically a “third party,” not the child’s other parent.

Perhaps this decision will lead to reform of that state’s child custody laws.

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