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Story to Watch: Nebraska Court Clarifies Custody Issue for Gay and Lesbian Parents

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Nebraska’s Supreme Court ruled Friday that Teri Latham could pursue custody rights of the child she co-parented. The Court specified that the relationship between Latham and Susan Schwerdtfeger, which ended in 2006, is not the deciding factor, but rather Latham’s role as co-parent. Latham and Schwerdtfeger can now take the case to a lower court to decide whether Latham should be granted custody and visitation.

The Associated Press reports, “Latham’s attorney, Tyler Block, said this ruling will be important for same-sex couples as well as for other non-married couples where someone who is not the biological parent acts as a parent.” An additional report highlights that, “notably, the case skirted the issues of marriage and de facto parent rights because Nebraska has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage which was enacted in 2000.”

It is important that the coverage of this story emphasize the Court’s decision as it clarifies custody rights for all non-married co-parents. The Court’s ruling focuses on doing what is in the best interest of children and continuing to provide parents with the ability to take care of children. Stories should respect the privacy of the parties involved, including the child, and, like the Court’s ruling, focus on the scope of the decision as it relates to custody and visitation as opposed to the relationship itself.

It’s also important in any story involving parenting by gay and lesbian couples for journalists and outlets not to repeat false claims made by anti-gay activists. All credible science (and every mainstream child welfare organization) says that gay and lesbian parents are just as capable of raising a happy, healthy and successful child as straight parents. If such claims are made by an interview subject during a story, the journalist has a responsibility to challenge them.

GLAAD asks that our constituents – particularly those in Nebraska -  notify us of any inaccurate or irresponsible journalism they come across by filling out an incident report while we continue to monitor media coverage of this and similar stories.