ACLU Asks Georgia Appeals Court to Dismiss Jail Sentence for Lesbian Mother

September 19, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

ATLANTA -- The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the Georgia Court of Appeals to dismiss a county judge's contempt order and jail sentence against a lesbian mother. Earlier this year, Wilkinson County Judge John Lee Parrott ordered that the child Elizabeth Hadaway hopes to adopt be taken away for three months because Hadaway is a lesbian, and now Hadaway is battling an order from the same judge that she spend as many as ten days in jail.

"I just want this nightmare to be over so that Emma can have the security of knowing we aren't going to be torn away from each other again," said Elizabeth Hadaway, a 28-year-old paramedic who first took in the little girl when the child's biological mother asked her to raise and adopt the child. "No parent should be treated the way I've been treated by the legal system, and no child should be taken away from her home and sent to live with strangers because she has a parent who's gay."

Hadaway has been caring for seven-year-old Emma for over a year and the child calls her "Mommy." Last winter, Judge Parrott was on the verge of granting Hadaway's request to permanently adopt Emma but abruptly changed his mind when he noticed in a home study that Hadaway was living with her lesbian partner of seven years. Judge Parrott then denied the adoption, ordering that Emma be sent back to her biological mother. Hadaway met with the biological mother at a truck stop to hand over the girl. After accepting custody, the biological mother saw how distraught Emma was over the separation and again insisted that Hadaway should raise the girl.

Hadaway, who had ended her relationship with her partner and moved with Emma to Bibb County before the adoption denial, again applied for custody in her new home county with the biological mother's full consent. Shortly after that, Parrott issued a contempt order against Hadaway and ordered the little girl be taken from her home to live in foster care in spite of the biological mother's wishes. Judge Parrott also sentenced Hadaway to five to ten days in jail. Almost three months passed before the Wilkinson County Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) decided that the biological's mother's wishes should be honored and allowed Emma to go home with Hadaway in May.

"Judges should treat all citizens who come before them fairly, but Judge Parrott appears to have acted out of anti-gay bias in the way he treated this little girl and her mother," said Ken Choe, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's national Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project who argued the appeal this morning. "We hope that the Court of Appeals will agree that Elizabeth Hadaway has done nothing wrong and dismiss this charge that has been hanging over her head so that she can concentrate on taking care of Emma."

Hadaway is represented by Choe and James Esseks of the ACLU's national LGBT Project, and cooperating counsel Dan Bloom of Pachman Richardson, LLC in Atlanta and Amy Waggoner of Aussenberg Waggoner, LLP in Alpharetta.

More information on the case, Hadaway v. Fowler-Dennard, can be found online at /lgbt/parenting/29566res20070502.html.

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