Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the description of the court’s ruling. We regret the error.
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It is an Oklahoma custody case that has gained national attention.
On Monday, an Oklahoma district judge ruled on a part of the case that is being closely followed by family law experts and LGBTQ community members across the country.
The ruling gave a sperm donor parental rights of a boy that was being raised by a lesbian couple.
“His mom,” declared Kris Williams.
She told KFOR on Tuesday that the Seventh Judicial District Court of Oklahoma could not take that title away from her.
She claims she is still the mother of the child that she and her wife, Rebekah Wilson, started raising together. Although on Monday, Judge Lynne McGuire ruled she is not the mom, and that the sperm donor Harlan Vaughn is the legal parent.
“I guess I’m still in shock,” Williams expressed of the ruling.
Court documents state in September 2018, Wilson entered a sperm donor agreement with Vaughn and that Williams was not included or referenced in the agreement.
Several at-home, non-medically assisted inseminations took place over the weekend of December 7-9, 2018, which resulted in Wilson’s pregnancy.
Wilson and Williams married on June 1, 2019, when Wilson was six months pregnant.
When the child was born in August 2019, both Wilson and Williams were listed as mothers on the birth certificate, and the couple would raise the boy for a little more than two years until their marriage fell apart.
In November 2021, Wilson obtained a Victim Protective Order against Williams, and she and the boy moved in with Vaughn.
The court documents continued the timeline by saying on January 18, 2022, Vaughn filed a Petition for Adjudication of Paternity and Establishment of Custody and Visitation.
The court case that ensued captured national attention, with LGBTQ+ experts around the country closely watching the divorce/ child custody case because it could have implications in other states.
On Monday, Judge McGuire ruled that since Williams did not give birth to the child and did not adopt the child, she could not establish a mother-child relationship.
The court ruling cited Oklahoma’s Uniform Parentage Act, which does not take into account same-sex marriage. The act is specific on how a parent-child relationship is established, and it does not include artificial insemination, but does include adoption.
“Williams, through her testimony and exhibits presented during the trial, admitted she and Wilson discussed adoption,” the ruling said. “Furthermore, Williams admitted she knew that under Oklahoma law she needed to adopt the minor child to establish parental rights. Williams chose not to adopt. Williams testified that she didn’t believe it was fair that she would have to seek court intervention to establish parental rights of the minor child… The reality is that the law provides a legal remedy available to Williams. She knowingly chose not to pursue it.”
“I can tell you that that brings a lot of anger and emotion on me,” Williams told KFOR of how the ruling and loss of the child makes her feel.
In tears she asked, “Why? Just why?”
She and her attorney Robyn Hopkins are appealing the ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, believing there isn’t enough precedent for this complicated situation for this ruling to stand.
“It’s the first kind of case with these facts,” Hopkins said. “There is not case law precedent for these facts. Case law, even though it does not exist, these facts exist. And so, we have to use what we do know and apply it to the facts that are relevant.”
She doesn’t believe understanding their standpoint needs to be difficult.
“One thing I can say is Kris is on the birth certificate of this child and they were married,” she explained. “I mean, to me, it’s logical. It’s black and white. But again, we don’t have case law in Oklahoma to support that. They were married. Marriage is legal. Same sex marriage is legal in the state of Oklahoma. And they had a child. So, there’s a child of the marriage.”
She also stressed that adoption should not be forced on same-sex couples to claim parenthood when it’s not forced on men of heterosexual couples.
“Show me where the case law says that gay people have to adopt their own children?” Hopkins asked. “Why do gay people have to have a home study and a background check to adopt their own children and pay upwards of a couple thousand dollars and go to court to make it official?”
Court documents show Wilson and the child have lived with Vaughn since November 2021. It states that both Wilson and Vaughn testified that they did not believe their sperm donor contract was valid and officially terminated it in writing in February 2022.
On Tuesday, Vaughn told KFOR in a statement, “We remain focused exclusively on our child’s protection and well-being. We are grateful for the court’s validation.”
Wilson’s attorney Seth Von Tungelin told KFOR they have no comment on the ruling.