An Oklahoma judge ruled on Thursday that a baby created for a lesbian couple using purchased sperm belongs with his biological mother and father, not his mom’s female ex.
Kris Williams argued that because she helped raise the toddler with her now ex-wife Rebekah Wilson and since she is listed on his birth certificate, she deserves full parental rights. Oklahoma County District Judge Lynne McGuire rejected that claim and said that Oklahoma law detailing parentage trumps the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage.
“[The act] does not take into account same-sex marriage, and there is no presumption that the wife of the mother is automatically presumed the parent of a child born during the marriage,” McGuire wrote.
Williams, McGuire said, “was able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she acted in a parental role during her marriage” but ultimately, “there was no evidence presented regarding the length of time it would take to establish a ‘meaningful emotional relationship with the child.’”
That meant giving Harlan Vaughn, the couple’s sperm supplier who is now in a relationship with Wilson, full parental rights. McGuire said Williams, who never legally adopted the child nor birthed him, did not qualify for a “mother–child relationship” under state law.
“The reality is that the law provides a legal remedy to those seeking parental rights. There was a legal remedy available to Williams. She knowingly chose not to pursue it,” McGuire wrote.
The mix of same-sex marriage laws and the rapidly expanding world of assisted reproduction is fraught with legal challenges. This latest ruling is just one example of why enabling and protecting the deliberate creation of motherless or fatherless children is not just legally problematic, but also in violation of children’s natural rights.
Behind the Biological Battle
According to an article penned by Wilson in 2021, she and Williams became legally married in their state so Williams could be listed as one of the child’s parents on the birth certificate.
“It was about three years into our relationship that we started talking about having a baby,” she wrote. “This conversation also included a ‘getting married’ conversation; not because of any traditional reason, but to establish Kris’ parentage on legal documentation.”
Reproductive technologies, such as creating children with supplied sperm with no strings attached, are morally problematic because they sideline the natural right children have to a mother and father to accommodate the desires of adults. They also make reproduction and human existence transactional.
Yet to save time and money and ensure their child had access to his heritage and medical history, Williams and Wilson circumvented fertility facilities’ anonymous gametes stores, which often dangle dollars in front of young, cash-strapped men and women in exchange for their biological matter, to go with a gay man they found on a paternity website. Together, they decided Wilson would officially enter the “known sperm donor agreement” and carry the baby who was intended to be fatherless from the start.
Children born into fatherless homes, such as Wilson’s son, are less likely to excel in school or even graduate. Data suggests that fatherless sons are twice less likely to graduate college by their late-20s than their peers who are raised by their biological mother and father.
Wilson and Williams went to great lengths to include Vaughn, their sperm supplier, in the pregnancy, such as inviting him on doctor visits and asking him to “be involved as our friend and our child’s family.” But he still wasn’t going to have a front-row seat in raising his child.
Wilson said that at one point, she and Williams took a brief hiatus from spending extra time with Vaughn but made room for him to be present in his child’s life again after they realized the pain donor-conceived children experience when they are distanced from their roots.
Gametes suppliers, too, often suffer from emotional pain once they realize they will likely never raise their flesh and blood, which is why by the time Wilson birthed her baby, Vaughn had established a relationship with the boy via video calls. Vaughn’s parents, whom Wilson refers to as “Gigi and Papa,” even “met” his biological child, their first grandbaby, over Zoom on Thanksgiving in 2020.
When Wilson and Williams split in 2021, Wilson obtained a Victim Protective Order against Williams and moved in with Vaughn. By January 2022, Vaughn asked a court to grant him legal paternity of his son.
During Williams and Wilson’s divorce proceedings in 2022, McGuire ordered Williams’ name be struck from the birth certificate. She later reversed that ruling but noted parental rights would be determined at a later date.
Williams said she believed the judge’s latest decision regarding her parental status was discriminatory.
“I don’t feel like we should have to adopt our own children,” Williams told the 19th News. “If I was a man, then nobody could come back and you know, question whether that child was mine or not, after they’re the age of 2.”
Vaughn told KFOR, an Oklahoma City news station, that he and Wilson “remain focused exclusively on our child’s protection and well-being” and that they are “grateful for the court’s validation.”
The only thing better for the boy now, data shows, would be for his mom and dad to graduate their dating relationship to marriage. Children who are born to and raised by their married biological mother and father are more likely to lead healthier, safer, and better-educated lives well above the poverty line.