In a 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court upheld in part the Florida's 5th District Court of Appeals ruling that when a Brevard County mother donated her egg to her lesbian partner who then gave birth to that child via in vitro fertilization, both the egg donor and birth mother have parental rights to the child.
The Supreme Court distinguished the donor mom in this case from an anonymous egg donor, reasoning that the due process guarantees in the Florida and United States Constitutions and the privacy provision of the Florida Constitution do not permit the State to deprive the biological mother of parental rights where she was an intended parent and actually established a parental relationship with the child.
The high court also ruled that Florida Statutes sections 742.13(2) and 742.14, in providing an exception to the statutory relinquishment of parental rights for egg and sperm donors who are part of a heterosexual “commissioning couple,” but not those who are part of a same-sex couple, violate the Florida and federal Equal Protection Clauses.
Both women, who are only named by their initials in the case as D.M.T. v. T.M.H. to protect the identity of the child, cohabitated in a lesbian relationship from 1995 until 2006. When the women decided to have a baby that they would raise together as equal parental partners, they used funds from their joint bank account to pay for a reproductive doctor to withdraw ova from the fertile partner and implant the fertilized egg in the infertile partner.
According to court documents, the two women told the reproductive doctor that they intended to raise the child as a couple, and they went for counseling with a mental health professional to prepare themselves for parenthood.
When the child was born in Brevard County in 2004, the couple gave the baby a hyphenation of their last names. Although the birth certificate lists only the birth mother and does not indicate a father, a maternity test revealed that there is a 99.99% certainty that the donor mom is the biological mother of the child.
Court documents also show that the couple sent out birth announcements with both of their names declaring, “We Proudly Announce the Birth of Our Beautiful Daughter.” Both women participated at their child’s baptism, and they both took an active role in the child’s early education.
The women later separated in May 2006 and the custody battle that gave rise to this case ensued.