We just won justice for our client Rachelle Black! This morning, the Washington Supreme Court unanimously stood with Rachelle and affirmed what we believed all along: that the trial court disfavored Rachelle because of her sexual orientation.
You may remember Rachelle’s story: she filed for divorce from her husband after coming out as a lesbian. When creating a parenting plan for the couple’s three children, the trial court gave primary custody of the kids to their father, despite the fact that Rachelle had been a stay-at-home parent for the kids’ entire lives.
In reaching that decision, the court criticized her for not having a career, which she put on hold to raise the children. Further, the court expressed that it would be “very challenging for the children to reconcile their religious upbringing” with Rachelle’s sexual orientation – or what the court-appointed guardian ad litem repeatedly referred to as Rachelle’s “lifestyle choice.”
The Washington Supreme Court shut down those claims, calling out the trial court for relying on unfair bias and the presumption “that Rachelle’s sexual orientation is inherently disruptive to the children.” It also acknowledged that the trial court unfairly favored the father’s religious beliefs over Rachelle’s ability to parent her children.
“As a movement, we have won long and hard-fought battles for LGBTQ equality. But LGBTQ people continue to face discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and even in courtrooms,” said Legal Voice’s David Ward. “No parent should ever have to face discrimination in child custody decisions because of who they love. This strong and unanimous decision by the Washington Supreme Court helps ensure no one else has to.”
We are absolutely thrilled with this positive result for Rachelle and her family. But we know that this never should have happened in the first place. We are hopeful that this strong decision from the Supreme Court will serve as a lesson to courts in Washington – and beyond – so that no one else will have to face discrimination in child custody decisions because of who they love.
Heartfelt thanks to our cooperating attorney team from Perkins Coie: Amanda Beane, Kelly Moser, and Julie Wilson-McNerney; to our wonderful allies who submitted amicus briefs in the Supreme Court: National Center for Lesbian Rights, Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, QLaw Association of Washington, Professor Julie Shapiro, ACLU (national) and ACLU of Washington; and to Rachelle for her bravery and perseverance.