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Saturday, 9 March, 2002, 17:59 GMT
Ruling dismays lesbian couple
Glasgow
The case was heard at Glasgow Sheriff Court
A lesbian couple have expressed dismay at a sheriff's decision to grant parental rights to the gay man who was sperm donor for their child.

The couple said they would consider an appeal against the sheriff's ruling that the man had parental rights, while the lesbian partner of the boy's mother was denied them.

Sheriff Laura Duncan has called on the Scottish Parliament to clarify the law on the parental rights of same-sex couples after hearing the unique case.


Our counsel supplied vast amounts of legal evidence which supported the view same-sex partnerships can be family units in Britain

Lesbian couple
The 30-year-old man had turned to the courts after disagreements with the lesbian couple over access to the 18-month-old boy.

None of the parties involved in the case can be named.

The court heard that once the baby was six weeks old the couple tried to restrict the man's visits.

They said he was just a sperm donor and they wanted legal recognition for the mother's partner.

But in a landmark written judgement at Glasgow Sheriff Court, Sheriff Duncan ruled that a lesbian couple did not constitute a family unit.

She said the child's welfare was of paramount importance in granting the man "full parental rights and responsibilities", because it would be in the baby's best interests to have access to his father.

Legal recognition

In a statement released on Saturday, the couple said: "We are devastated that Sheriff Laura Duncan has given parental rights to a sperm donor.

"We cannot comprehend that, because we are lesbians, Sheriff Duncan does not regard us as a 'family unit'.

"Our counsel supplied vast amounts of legal evidence which supported the view same-sex partnerships can be family units in Britain. Sheriff Duncan chose to reject this evidence."

Parliament
The sheriff said MSPs should clarify the law
The couple said while certain same-sex relationships had received legal recognition, these relationships were rejected when children were involved.

They claimed that the issue also affected "unmarried heterosexual family units."

They said: "Like many heterosexual relationships, we are common-law partners.

"Many people live outside convention. Does this mean we are not entitled to choose whom we should love, or be respected as a family unit?"

The couple's solicitor, Fiona Cook, said: "Whatever the particular circumstances, if the law is to protect children and act in a child's best interest then the child's family unit must be given legal recognition.

"By telling a child that their family is legally not a family we only stigmatise that child and fail to protect their best interests."


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Have your say on the rights of same-sex couples after a sheriff issues a landmark ruling in a Scottish court.Gay rights
Should same-sex couples have all a parent's rights?
See also:

07 Mar 02 | Scotland
Gay father wins landmark ruling
26 Apr 01 | Health
Gays 'have right to parenthood'
01 Jun 00 | Health
Gay men 'take more sexual risks'
31 May 00 | Health
'Screen gay men for cancer'
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