Bottoms v. Bottoms
Bottoms v. Bottoms was a landmark child custody case in Virginia that awarded custody of the child to the grandmother instead of the mother, primarily because the mother was a lesbian. In April 1993, Kay Bottoms sued her daughter, Sharon Bottoms, for custody of Sharon Bottoms' son, Tyler Doustou. On April 5, 1993 judge Buford Parsons ruled that Sharon Bottoms was an unfit parent and Kay Bottoms was awarded custody of her grandson. Sharon Bottoms was allowed visitation rights two days a week, but Tyler was not allowed in his mother’s home or to have any contact with his mother’s partner."
Sharon lived with her mother, Kay Bottoms, for the first few months after Tyler was born. On Memorial Day, 1992, Sharon met April Wade at a picnic. They began dating and in September of that year, Sharon and Tyler moved in with April. A month after that, Sharon and April had a commitment ceremony, pledging to stay together for life.
Tyler was spending a lot of time with his grandmother "because Sharon felt overwhelmed by the burden of motherhood." However, after the commitment ceremony, Sharon pledged to be a better mother to Tyler. As such, she told Kay that she would be seeing less of Tyler. In response, in March 1993, Kay Bottoms "asked the local family court for custody and got it."
Regarding her relationship with her female partner, April Wade, "Sharon acknowledged that she and April -- whom Tyler calls "Addle" -- had kissed and gently caressed each other in front of the boy." Court-appointed psychologists did not find that Tyler had suffered ill effects from being in the care of his mother and her partner. Moreover, Dennis Doustou testified on behalf of Sharon Bottoms, saying of Kay Bottoms to reporters: "The woman is cold-hearted...It's no reason to take a child from his mother. That's totally wrong."
Bottoms additionally testified that her Kay Bottoms' boyfriend, who lived with Kay, had sexually molested her when she was young.
The Virginia Circuit Court judge Buford M. Parsons ruled that, since homosexual sex was illegal in Virginia, Sharon Bottoms was a criminal because she “admitted in this court that she is living in an active homosexual relationship.” "Parsons wrote that “the mother’s conduct is illegal. . . . Her conduct is immoral and . . . renders her an unfit parent.” Sharon Bottoms was allowed visitation rights two days a week, but Tyler was not allowed in his mother’s home or to have any contact with his mother’s partner, April Wade."
The Virginia Court of Appeals reversed the ruling the next year, granting Sharon Bottoms custody of her son, saying "The fact that a mother is a lesbian and has engaged in illegal sexual acts does not alone justify taking custody of a child from her and awarding the child to a non-parent." However, on further appeal, the Virginia Supreme Court returned custody to the grandmother.
- Two Mothers for Zachary, film adaptation.
- "Judge rules lesbian unfit parent". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Associated Press. September 8, 1993.
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- Diane Anderson-Minshall, "Court Cases That Changed Our World", The Advocate, Aug. 22, 2012.
- "Virginia court grants lesbian custody of son". The Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. June 21, 1994.