Washington Court Overturns Anti-Gay Custody Ruling

Washington Court Overturns Anti-Gay Custody Ruling

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On Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court overturned a 2014 custody ruling that showed anti-gay bias against a parent.

The Blacks

The Supreme Court ruled that the original custody decision between Rachelle and Charles Black showed prejudice against Rachelle due to her sexual orientation.

Courthouse News writes that Rachelle and Charles divorced in 2011 after 20 years of marriage. Rachelle told Charles she thought she was gay. Charles told family and friends about Rachelle’s sexuality, but not their children. Rachelle claims that he assaulted her twice during this time.

Rachelle filed for divorce two years later.

But at the divorce trial, Rachelle’s sexuality was used against her. Courthouse News writes:

Kelly Theriot Leblanc, the appointed guardian ad litem at trial, recommended that Charles be the primary residential parent, raising concerns that Rachelle’s “lifestyle choice” conflicted with the children’s religious beliefs.

Charles won primary custody of the children. He also won sole authority to decide the children’s education and religion. Charles was a conservative Christian.

The court determined that Rachelle could not discuss her sexuality with her children, because that would interfere with their conservative religious upbringing.

But on Thursday, the Supreme Court found the lower court’s decision to be an abuse of discretion. The judge, quoted in Courthouse News, wrote:

Even though the trial court here did not explicitly suggest that Rachelle’s sexual orientation made her an unfit parent, its reasoning is nevertheless clear: the children are allegedly uncomfortable with homosexuality due to their religious upbringing, Charles–a heterosexual who shares those same beliefs–is better suited to maintain that religious upbringing, therefore, he is the more stable parent.

Anti-LGBTQ Bias in Custody Hearings

Sadly, what Rachelle Black went through is hardly rare. A parent’s LGBTQ status often hurts them when it comes to custody battles. A 2014 Drexel University study found that family courts often favor heterosexual parents over LGBTQ parents.

This happens despite the fact that multiple studies have found that queer parents are just as good as straight parents.


(Header image via Rachelle Black’s Facebook)

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