A female Michigan couple tests the boundaries of parental custody – with a lawsuit brought by the non-biological mother of their daughter and twin boys.
It’s a battle that may reach the Michigan Supreme Court – and possibly secure joint custody rights for nonbiological, unmarried partners, gay or straight.
In 2007, more than 22,000 same-sex couples lived in Michigan and 18% of them were raising children, according to a study from the UCLA School of Law. An estimated 7,800 Michigan children were living in same-sex households then. Under state law, the only people who can petition for custody are biological parents or the husband of the biological mother if the child was born during their marriage. An adoptive parent — biological or nonbiological — also may petition for custody. But the only people who may adopt in Michigan are married couples and single individuals, either gay or straight. Though state law doesn’t expressly prohibit adoptions by unwed couples, Michigan courts and judges require adoptive couples to be married. That in effect bars gay couples from adopting because of Proposal 2, the constitutional amendment Michigan voters approved in 2004. It limits marriage to “the union of one man and one woman.” The state Supreme Court has interpreted it to also ban civil unions for gay couples.