A recent case in Wisconsin involving a lesbian couple who separated after the adoption of two children in 2002 and 2004 is denying any rights to one of the women who acted as stay-at-home mom during the last eight years.

After the couple separated, the two women agreed to share custody of the children, but only one of them had legal rights as their adoptive parent based on Wisconsin’s adoption laws. At this time, gay and lesbian couples in the state are not allowed to share legal parenting rights to adopted children, meaning only one parent can be listed as legal guardian.

The non-adoptive mother appealed to the court to allow her to share legal rights in the children’s futures, but the legal definition of parent under Wisconsin law lists only a biological or adoptive parent. Since the non-adoptive mother is neither, she is allowed no legal rights to her children.

Though the court still grants her “guardianship” under the original informal agreement struck up between the two parents, unless she were able to prove the children were neglected or abandoned, she cannot be granted legal guardian rights.

As politicians and court systems continue to debate the legality of the family unit, it’s the children who suffer, and it seems no one takes that into consideration except the parents.

Coming out of a heterosexual divorce with a child, I can tell you right now I would fight tooth and nail if someone tried to deny me rights to see my child. While I can’t even begin to imagine the hardship this family is facing, especially the children after the separation of the only parents they’ve ever known, my heart goes out to them as they struggle to try and maintain their sense of family despite the limitations placed on them by a system unwilling to change.