Virginia lesbian mother fights for custody of son

Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit
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 lovers."

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 Virginia.

They demanded an end to witch hunts against lesbian and gay parents.

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 hers.

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.


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