Susan Gluck Mezey's newest book, Gay Families and the Courts, is a compelling examination of the role of the state and federal courts in furthering the goals of the gay and lesbian community. Unlike Mezey's earlier book, Queers in Court, this book evaluates the extent to which litigation is effective in advancing equal rights for gay families families in which at least one member is gay as they seek to expand their opportunities and battle discrimination. Mezey shows how the courts address gay and lesbian rights and sexual orientation in schools and social organizations such as the Boy Scouts along with family-oriented problems such as marriage and parenthood. In doing so, Mezey emphasizes the complexity of the issues involved in the cases, and assesses the degree to which the outcome of the litigation is explained by the type of case, the type of court, and the judge's perception of his or her role as a policymaker. It is a valuable reference for scholars interested in judicial, legislative, and executive policymaking at the federal and state level as well as anyone interested in LGBT politics."
by Kimberly D. Richman
Publication Date: 2008-12-01
Winner of the 2010 Pacific Sociological Association Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Award A lesbian couple rears a child together and, after the biological mother dies, the surviving partner loses custody to the child’s estranged biological father. Four days later, in a different court, judges rule on the side of the partner, because they feel the child relied on the woman as a “psychological parent.” What accounts for this inconsistency regarding gay and lesbian adoption and custody cases, and why has family law failed to address them in a comprehensive manner? In Courting Change, Kimberly D. Richman zeros in on the nebulous realm of family law, one of the most indeterminate and discretionary areas of American law. She focuses on judicial decisions—both the outcomes and the rationales—and what they say about family, rights, sexual orientation, and who qualifies as a parent. Richman challenges prevailing notions that gay and lesbian parents and families are hurt by laws’ indeterminacy, arguing that, because family law is so loosely defined, it allows for the flexibility needed to respond to—and even facilitate — changes in how we conceive of family, parenting, and the role of sexual orientation in family law. Drawing on every recorded judicial decision in gay and lesbian adoption and custody cases over the last fifty years, and on interviews with parents, lawyers, and judges, Richman demonstrates how parental and sexual identities are formed and interpreted in law, and how gay and lesbian parents can harness indeterminacy to transform family law.
Making Babies, Making Families
by Mary L. Shanley
Publication Date: 2001-07-11
Heart-wrenching, high-profile court cases such as the Baby M case have called attention to the troubling consequences of new reproductive technology; the law has yet to catch up with the ways that people create families today. Although these times may appear chaotic and confusing, Mary Shanley shows us that we don't have to be afraid. Her timely work begins by demonstrating that the traditional model of the "natural," patriarchal family is outdated, and that the newer contractual model based on equality between adults can lead to questionable results for the child. Shanley offers a new vision of family law that's based on existing caring relationships of adults for children. It ensures each child's right to be cared for, and takes into account the emotional realities of family life. She applies this practical, humane model to the most complex and controversial issues of our time, including adoption, biological fathers' legal rights, surrogate motherhood, lesbian families, and the rights of sperm and egg donors and recipients. "In this impressive study of family law's uneasiness with custody rights, Shanley explores how dominant notions of family (in which the primary partners are married, heterosexual and of the same race) have contributed to legal rulings on adoption and surrogacy....Shanley's discussion of transracial adoptions and the controversial role of race in shaping custody rights is evenhanded and riveting, as is her critique of surrogacy-for-pay and the sale of genetic material. Readers may be surprised that the U.S. is the only Western country that doesn't restrict human ova sales, and that France doesn't pay sperm donors. This critically sophisticated yet readily accessible discussion of adoption, reproductive technology and parental responsibility represents a much-needed addition to the growing number of books on new forms of family in the 21st century." -Publishers Weekly "Making Babies, Making Families takes on all the hard questions . . . and with unflinching clear sight, clearly defined principles, and moral compassion creates a compelling basis for answers." -Mona Harrington, author of Care and Equality "[This] distinctive and valuable contribution ensures that [we] protect the interests of children and other vulnerable people while sustaining the bonds of intimacy." -Martha Minow, author of Between Vengeance and Forgiveness