Posted by: Amelia | June 5, 2007

Gay Parenting Stopped By Robe-Wearing Clones! News at 11.

The New York Times editorial page had a piece today denouncing President Bush’s nomination of Judge Leslie Southwick to the Fifth Circuit. In addition to his racial insensitivity, Southwick’s role in an anti-gay ruling on the Mississippi Supreme Court caused the Times to doubt his committment to equal justice:

And he failed the test when he joined a majority opinion that denied a bisexual mother custody of her child. Adding insult to injury, he joined a concurring opinion that went on to berate the mother for her “decision to participate in a homosexual relationship” and reminded her that one of the consequences of her “exertion of her perceived right” was that she might lose her child.

Reading this, I got a strong sense of deja vu. Last month, a group started on Facebook urging Harvard alums to refrain from voting for Justice Champ Lyons, Jr., who is running for Harvard Board of Overseers. Lyons sits on the Alabama Supreme Court, and in 1998 authored an opinion removing a child from her mother’s custody because the mother was in a committed and open lesbian relationship. The group’s authors write:

Lyons noted repeatedly that the child “remarked several times that girls may marry girls and that boys may marry boys.” Ultimately, the corrupting influence of the mother’s lesbian relationship trumped everything else: “While the evidence shows that the mother loves the child and has provided her with good care, it also shows that she has chosen to expose the child continuously to a lifestyle that is “neither legal in this state, nor moral in the eyes of most of its citizens.””

Has anyone ever seen these two judges in the same place at the same time? Maybe they’re secretly the same person, commuting back and forth between the neighboring states. Reading the ruling itself, Lyons’ homophobia is more nuanced, and yet more insidious than the Facebook write-up portrays. Like Southwick, Lyons blames the mother’s “choice” to be in a lesbian relationship.

The father sought custody of the child only after he had remarried and had discovered that the mother and G.S. were not conducting a discreet affair in the guise of “roommates” but were, instead, presenting themselves openly to the child as affectionate “life partners” with a relationship similar to that of the father and the stepmother. This is, therefore, not a custody case based solely upon the mother’s sexual conduct, where the “substantial detrimental effect” element might be applicable. Rather, it is a custody case based upon two distinct changes in the circumstances of the parties: (1) the change in the father’s life, from single parenthood to marriage and the creation of a two-parent, heterosexual home environment, and (2) the change in the mother’s homosexual relationship, from a discreet affair to the creation of an openly homosexual home environment.


While much study, and even more controversy, continue to center upon the effects of homosexual parenting, the inestimable developmental benefit of a loving home environment that is anchored by a successful marriage is undisputed. The father’s circumstances have changed, and he is now able to provide this benefit to the child. The mother’s circumstances have also changed, in that she is unable, while choosing to conduct an open cohabitation with her lesbian life partner, to provide this benefit.

It might be all well and good for a woman and her “roommate” to raise a child, Lyons says, but only in the absence of a pair-o-heterosexuals option. When that presents itself, the child is automatically forfeit – but hey, lady, it was your choice! It’s amazing how Lyons manages to denigrate both homosexual parenthood and single fatherhood in the same argument.

Sadly, I’m not sure how far the “Vote Against Lyons” movement spread beyond a few dozen Facebookers. The ballot certainly presented Lyons as a kindly gentleman, and I have no doubt that some alums will vote for him who would otherwise be sympathetic to his detractors. For Judge Southwick, however, the vote will be more informed. Senate Democrats should heed the Times editorial’s advice that they reject this guy. At least we know he’ll have Champ Lyons’ shoulder to cry on.



  1. […] few weeks ago I wrote about the curious parallels between Judges Champ Lyons and Leslie Southwick, both Southern state judges who issued anti-gay […]

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