DETROIT, MI — Yesterday, the Michigan Court of Appeals recognized two unmarried women as parents where one parent is a genetic parent and the other parent gave birth.
LaNesha Matthews and Kyresha LeFever were a same-sex couple who had twins together using assisted reproduction. The children were conceived through in vitro fertilization using Kyresha's eggs, and LaNesha gave birth. Last year, a trial court ruled LaNesha is a surrogate with no parental rights because she is not a genetic parent, even though she always intended to be a mother and parented the children since they were born seven years ago.
After the parents broke up, they shared custody for several years before going to court after a dispute. The trial court ruled that LaNesha was not a parent, removed LaNesha from the birth certificates, prevented her from participating in their educational or medical decision-making, and allowed her only limited visitation as an unrelated "third party."
On April 1, 2021, the Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the trial court's ruling, finding that LaNesha and Kyresha are both equal parents to their children. One of the judges wrote an additional opinion explaining that all parents and their children have a constitutional right to be recognized, regardless of birth or genetics.
"We are grateful that our client and her children are once again recognized as a family," said NCLR Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura. "We know that families are formed in many ways. Recognizing genetics as the only basis for parent-child relationships leaves out many families and harms children by separating them from their parents."
NCLR represented LaNesha on appeal before the Michigan Court of Appeals along with her trial counsel Regina Jemison. Amicus briefs were filed on LaNesha's behalf by a number of law professors written by Professors Courtney Joslin and Douglas NeJaime, the ACLU, ACLU of Michigan, Center for Reproductive Rights, Center for Genetics and Society, and Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. Since its founding, NCLR has maintained a longstanding commitment to racial and economic justice and the LGBTQ community's most vulnerable. www.nclrights.org .