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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE Court Restores Child Custody to Lesbian Mother; ACLU Wins Reversal in Virginia Appeals Court For IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 22, 1994 The Virginia Court of Appeals today reversed a lower court ruling and restored child custody to Sharon Bottoms, the 23-year-old Virginia woman whose 2-year-old son, Tyler, was ordered out of her custody a year ago because she was in a lesbian relationship. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, which jointly appealed the trial court's decision removing Sharon Bottoms' son from her custody, heralded today's ruling as a victory over prejudice and cruelty. "We convinced the Court to look at Sharon Bottoms as a mother, not as a stereotype," said Marc E. Elovitz, Staff Counsel with the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "The Appeals Court rejected the lower court's unfounded presumptions about lesbian and gay parents and instead acted in the best interests of the child." In filing the appeal, the ACLU argued that there was absolutely no evidence that Sharon Bottoms' relationship with another woman had any detrimental effect on her child and that the trial court's decision rested on the unfounded presumption that lesbians and gay men are inherently unfit parents. "Today Virginia joins the vast majority of states that ask whether a parent's sexual orientation or any other characteristic will harm the child; not whether some people are still prejudiced against lesbians and gay men," said Ruth E. Harlow, Associate Director of the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. "The Court relied on the body of studies documenting that children with lesbian and gay parents grow up to be just like children of heterosexual parents," said Kent Willis, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. "Parenting ability does not correlate with sexual orientation." The case was closely watched by a host of national gay and lesbian civil rights groups, women's rights organizations, mental health associations and advocates for children, many of whom filed "friend of the court" briefs in support of Sharon Bottoms. Donald E. Butler of Richmond, Virgina acted as cooperating attorney and Stephen Pershing, Legal Director of the ACLU of Virginia, and Player B. Michaelson assisted in representing Sharon Bottoms. --30-- ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher:// | American Civil Liberties Union National Office | | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"


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