Lesbian Wins Appeal on Vermont Adoption

Montpelier, Vt. June 19-- The Vermont Supreme Court said Friday that a woman involved in a long-term lesbian relationship could adopt her partner's two children.

In the nation's first appellate-level ruling in such a case, the court said that "to deny the children of same-sex partners, as a class, the security of a legally recognized relationship with their second parent serves no legitimate state interest."

The case involved Jane Van Buren, who was artifically [sic] inseminated and is the biological mother of two boys, 2-month-old Ethan and 4-year-old Benjamin. Deborah Lashman, who has lived with Ms. Van Buren for seven years, sought to adopt the children so she would have full parental rights.

Most states, including Vermont, require that a biological parent's rights be terminated in adoptions unless the child is adopted by a stepparent. A probate judge ruled last July that because Ms. Lashman and Ms. Van buren were not married, the stepparent exception would not apply.

The state Supreme Court unanimously disagreed. "We hold that when the family unit is comprised of the natural mother and her partner, and the adoption is in the best interests of the children, terminating the natural mother's rights is unreasonable and unnecessary," Justice Denise Johnson wrote.

The ruling has been awaited nationally because appellate court rulings have the effect of both setting legal precedent within their own states and influencing decisions in other states.