Mongerson v. Mongerson
(Amicus) Custody case arguing that restricting ‘exposure’ to the gay friends of a parent on the sole basis of their sexual orientation is contrary to Georgia law and perpetuates prejudice and stigma against LGBT people.
After 20 years of marriage, a father of three came out as gay, and in 2005 the parties decided to divorce. In the court’s “Final Order,” filed in September of 2007, a blanket restriction was imposed on the father that prohibited him from “exposing his children to his homosexual partners and friends.” Lambda Legal filed an amicus brief in the Georgia Supreme Court on the basis that an antigay restriction in a custody arrangement without evidence of harm to the children is both contrary to Georgia law and the interests of the children and this family, and serves only to perpetuate prejudice and stigma against an entire group of people based solely on their sexual orientation.
Georgia law is clear that visitation restrictions imposed as against individuals, whether based on sexual orientation or relationship of parent to restricted person, must be founded on evidence of harm to the children. Requiring LGBT parents to shield their children from the reality of their parents’ orientation places a virtual “scarlet letter” on the LGBT community. Through the work of Lambda Legal and others, the legal justification for such damaging custody decisions has been eroded in most states — Georgia among them.
Lambda Legal’s Impact
A victory in this case would illustrate the fact that gay people don’t necessarily make bad parents, and that restricting children’s exposure to gay people does not “protect” them, but instead only perpetuates prejudice and stigma against LGBT people.
- February 2009 Lambda Legal files friend-of-the-court brief in the Georgia Supreme Court.
- June 2009 Georgia Supreme Court agrees with Lambda Legal’s argument and vacates the blanket restriction on exposure to former husband’s lesbian and gay acquaintances. (“In the absence of evidence that exposure to any member of the gay and lesbian community acquainted with Husband will have an adverse effect on the best interests of the children, the trial court abused its discretion when it imposed such a restriction on Husband’s visitation rights.”)