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Study finds bias for heterosexuals in child custody fights

On Behalf of | May 7, 2014 | Child Custody |

Social acceptance of same-sex marriage is swiftly growing in the U.S. Ohio remains among the majority of states that do not recognize such relationships, but the state’s ban on gay marriage is facing a legal challenge in a suit filed this week.

Among the arguments being made is that the state has no rational basis to press the ban, especially in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Whichever way the court rules, some pundits say, the issue is likely to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court again.

Meanwhile, there are family law issues involving gay and lesbian parents being handled in the courts now that sometimes require the help of experienced legal counsel — specifically around matters having to do with child support and visitation. 

And according to a new study out of Pennsylvania, there’s a bias being shown by judges in many cases that favor heterosexual parents over gay ex-spouses. The study finds this is happening even though there’s no scientific evidence to suggest heterosexual individuals make better parents.

The researchers from Drexel University scoured through existing research related to gay and lesbian parenting and current laws in the states related to child custody. What they found is that laws continue to allow judges to consider sexual orientation as a factor in determining child custody matters.

They say in situations where couples divorce and one ex declares his or her same-sex orientation, that parent often is denied custody. Sometimes they even see their visitation rights restricted on the basis of their sexual orientation.  

The authors suggest this creates situations where the law allows decisions that may conflict with what is in the best interest of the child. They say they hope that their research will encourage judges to set aside personal biases based on sexual orientation when deciding child custody matters. They say legislation changes should also be made to ensure that gay parents’ bonds with their children are protected.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, “Ohio Gay-Marriage Ban Challenged in Suit as Unconstitutional,” Erik Larson, May 1, 2014
Source: Medical Daily, “LGBT Parents’ Custody Battles Are Rife With Heterosexual Bias In The Courts,” Justin Caba, April 15, 2014