Until the Utah Supreme Court stepped forward on February 16th with its merciful breath of sanity, the best Cheryl Barlow had to hope for was a kind of "Sophie’s Choice."
According to incredible rulings of the state’s lower courts, she could either let her five-year-old daughter stay overnight alone with a woman who causes the child severe emotional distress and exposes her to attitudes and behavior that violate Barlow’s core faith beliefs … or go to jail.
That any caring mother should be placed in such a dilemma tells us just how serious things have become for conscientious moms and dads in a judicial system often more preoccupied with political correctness than parental rights.
Barlow was five months pregnant (by artificial insemination) with her daughter when she and her then-girlfriend, Keri Jones, obtained a civil union in Vermont. Both women were residents of Utah, which doesn’t recognize civil unions, and the state offered Jones no legal right to parental status of any kind, with regard to Barlow’s child.
Less than two years later, Barlow learned that her partner was engaged in an affair with another woman, and elected to dissolve their relationship. Soon afterwards, she became a Christian, renounced her former lesbian behavior, and, moved her child out of the lesbian environment and eventually to another state.
Jones, however, suddenly showed an aggressive new interest in cultivating a parenting relationship with Barlow’s child. She sued, and – in an unprecedented act of judicial activism and disregard for both Utah and United States Supreme Court decisions – a district court judge awarded her parental standing and visitation rights roughly equal to what a biological father would receive.
“The child’s best interest is not served by enforced visitation with a woman who, according to the U.S. Constitution, state law, and state public policy, has no legal claim for parental standing,” says Frank Mylar, an Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney who is representing Barlow. “It's unconscionable to take parental rights away from a loving mom to appease the demands of a legal stranger.
Alan Sears, a former federal prosecutor in the Reagan Administration, is president and CEO of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.