To those who think attitudes toward gays and lesbians never change, a recent Pennsylvania Superior Court decision may be enlightening. The case concerns a child custody struggle between a couple who divorced because the mother had a same-sex relationship with a friend.
Initially, the couple -- both police officers who were not named in the opinion -- were given shared custody for an 18-month transition period with the intention that the father would then have primary physical custody and the mother would have visitation rights.
The mother later sought a modification of the order, but a trial court rejected a social worker's recommendation that continuing the shared custody arrangement was in the daughter's best interests.
In denying the mother's request, the judge relied on a 1985 Superior Court decision that held a parent's gay identity against him (or her) in making custody determinations. That decision rejected as "a fallacy" the idea that a homosexual relationship could ever be the equal of a traditional family. The homosexual parent had the burden of proof of showing that the child would not be harmed by exposure to the relationship.
Twenty-five years later, when gay families with well-adjusted children are commonplace, the prejudice of the original decision is plain to see. In her opinion last month, Judge Christine Donohue of Pittsburgh overturned the flawed precedent and sent the case back to the trial court for a decision on a more reality-based set of principles.
As it is not in dispute that both parents in this case are "fit, loving and caring," justice has been done by putting aside an old prejudice.