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By Shelley Ettinger

A Sept. 7 court decision to deny lesbian mother Sharon Bottoms
custody of her 2-year-old son Tyler "has really galvanized our
community," says Janice Conard of the group Virginians for Justice.

Conard told Workers World the lesbian and gay community in Virginia
quickly began organizing to fight back. Straight supporters have
also "joined the gay community" to protest, she says.

Virginia, like other Southern states, is among the 24 states that
still have "sodomy" laws, which basically criminalize
homosexuality. The Sept. 7 court ruling was based on that law.

Henrico County Circuit Court Judge Buford Parsons Jr. ruled that
Sharon Bottoms is an "unfit parent" because her relationship with
her lover April Wade is "illegal and immoral." Parsons awarded
custody of Tyler to Bottoms' mother, Kay Bottoms.

The ruling upheld a March juvenile court decision that removed the
child from his mother's home. Parsons also restricted Sharon
Bottoms' visitation to one day a week, outside her home.

Wade, whom Tyler regards as a parent, is forbidden from seeing him.


Richmond Lesbian Womyn of Color issued a statement calling on all
lesbians to join RLWC and the Richmond Lesbian-Feminists "in a show
of support for Sharon Bottoms and April Wade."

The groups have scheduled a Sept. 25 benefit for the Sharon Bottoms
Defense Fund. The fund will pay for a legal appeal; lawyers from
the American Civil Liberties Union will argue the case.

The lesbians of color commented, "And they say Virginia is for

They noted: "We now realize that we must work harder than ever, and
stand together, in seeing to it that states such as Virginia no
longer treat us as immoral beings who are to be put out of business
and run out of town."

The group OUT! Richmond is planning a demonstration, tentatively
set for Sept. 24.

It will be called a "stroll-in." Lesbians, gays and supporters will
march with empty baby carriages to the Virginia Supreme Court.

And Virginians for Justice "will definitely be seeking to have
legislation introduced to this session to repeal the current
'sodomy' law," Conard says. Lesbian and gay parents from the region
joined the group at a Sept. 14 news conference in northern

They demanded an end to witch hunts against lesbian and gay

Activists pointed out Sharon Bottoms had testified that her
mother's live-in male lover sexually molested her for five years
when she was a child. Yet the judge sent Tyler to that home, not

Conard said funds are urgently needed to carry on the struggle.
Legal expense donations should be sent to the Sharon Bottoms
Defense Fund, c/o Virginia ACLU, 6 North 6th Street, Suite 400,
Richmond, Va. 23219. Checks to a "Sharon and April Defense Fund" to
support Bottoms and Wade in their struggle should be made out to
Phoenix Rising Bookstore and sent to the bookstore at 19 N. Belmont
Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23221.


(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted
if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World,
55 West 17 St., New York, NY 10011; via e-mail:

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