November 26, 1996: Bottoms’s worst-case scenario for gay families – Brief Article
While gay parents have made great strides in fighting for the custody of their kids, many judges remain hostile to those parents because of their sexual orientation. In 1996, Advocate reporter Tzivia Gover explored the perilous legal situation gay families face. That year Sharon Bottoms finally decided to give up her long struggle for custody of her son after the Virginia supreme court ruled in favor of her mother. In March 1993, Kay Bottoms, who strongly disapproved of her daughter’s sexual orientation and her partner, April Wade, had filed for custody of her grandson, Tyler. Three years later Sharon Bottoms could see her son only every other weekend at her home–and Wade could not be present. “When he gets out of the car, I take a deep breath and say, `OK, I have to keep it together until I see him again.'” said Bottoms.
“Family issues are where gay men and lesbians are most vulnerable,” Kathryn Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told Gover. “Still, legal experts express optimism,” Gover wrote. “But, they warn, the way toward consistently fair decisions in custody cases is more a zigzagging path than a steady ascent…. Custody decisions leave so much to the judge’s discretion [that] attitudes vary not only from state to state but from region to region.” Bottoms agreed and, noting the growing baby boom among gay people in other parts of the country, quipped, “More power to them–and don’t move to Virginia.”
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