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Legislation Surrounding Custody of Children of Same-Sex Couples Abandoned

Legislation Surrounding Custody of Children of Same-Sex Couples Abandoned

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Lawmakers abandoned plans Tuesday to block same-sex couples with children from legally defining their family through custody agreements.

The Utah Supreme Court already did the work.

Lawmakers were poised to act depending on the outcome of a case involving a lesbian who wanted the right to see a young girl born to her former partner.

The court Friday said Keri Jones had no right to visitation because she is not the biological parent and her relationship is not recognized under Utah law.

"This is a marvelous decision," Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, said. "It is an excellent case with great precedental value."

The Senate's only openly gay member, however, said nontraditional families "are afforded absolutely no help in the law."

"She is a fine mother, and she was a fine mother for the entire time that family was together and whole," Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, said of Jones. "Unfortunately ... Keri Jones is no longer going to be able to be (that) fine mother."

Cheryl Pike Barlow gave birth in October 2001 after she and Jones selected a sperm donor. In 2002, they obtained a court order designating themselves as co-guardians.

Barlow and Jones ended their relationship in October 2003 around the girl's second birthday. Barlow moved out with the child, and Jones' role as co-guardian was terminated.

A judge subsequently allowed Jones to see the girl, saying it was in the child's best interest. But the state Supreme Court overruled that decision last week.

"By asking us to recognize a new class of parents, Jones invites this court to overstep its bounds and invade the purview of the Legislature. Courts are ill-suited for such ventures," the court said in a decision written by Justice Jill Parrish.

The Utah Constitution bans gay marriage.

In 2006, Gov. Jon Huntsman vetoed a bill that would have allowed a biological parent to terminate a child's relationship with a third party, including a gay partner. Huntsman was concerned it could affect grandparents or others who raised a child from infancy.

This year's bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo, was intended to address those concerns.

But after the Supreme Court's ruling, Bramble said legislation isn't necessary.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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