A lesbian who divorced her wife is appealing a Rankin County judge's decision denying her custody rights because, he wrote in a recent opinion, two women are unable to conceive a child together and their youngest son, conceived through an anonymous sperm donation, "has got a natural father somewhere."
In the final divorce decree, Judge John S. Grant III wrote: “The court questions: Is the natural father not Zayden's father, even though he is an absent one? The court is of the opinion the natural father is Zayden's father.
“The court also questions: Can Zayden have three parents? Both these ladies are married to each other and the father? The Court is of the opinion the answer is no.
“The court finds two women cannot conceive a child together. The court does not find it (sic) opinion to be a discriminatory statement but a biological fact.
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“The Court reasons it is impossible for two women to conceive a child and that conception must occur between a man and a woman.”
Grant limited Christina Strickland to visitation with the boys, a 16-year-old and 5-year-old. She was seeking joint custody of the younger child but said she did not have the legal option for joint custody of the older boy.
Strickland said she and Kimberly Davis had been together since 1999. They adopted their oldest son in 2007 and married in Boston in 2009, years before the June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide. The state of Mississippi would not allow both women to be listed as parents on the adoption certificate, Strickland said, so Davis is listed as the legal mother of their oldest son.
Davis carried the son conceived through artificial insemination.
Strickland said the couple separated in January 2013, while they were living in Pass Christian. Strickland said she did not see her sons for 13 months.
Grant acknowledged that the children have a bond with Strickland and that she has shared the responsibility of raising them. He said the oldest child should be involved in deciding how often he visits with Strickland. He set up a visitation schedule for the youngest child. Strickland gets him every other weekend and, this year, for a week at Christmas.
Strickland is represented by Ocean Springs attorney Dianne Herman Ellis, while the attorney for Davis is Prentiss M. Grant of Brandon, who is not related to the judge.
The Sun Herald will update this story.