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March 28, 2008

Jail sentence reversed
for foster mom who kept girl

Judge took child only because she is lesbian

Atlanta--A year after being sentenced to jail for contempt of court, a lesbian woman who refused to give up custody of her foster daughter has had her conviction overturned.

The Georgia Court of Appeals issued its ruling on March 24.

Elizabeth Hadaway, a 29year-old paramedic, took in Emma when her biological mother was unable to care for her.

After fostering the child, she petitioned the court to adopt Emma, with the backing of the girl’s biological mother.

However, when Wilkinson County Superior Court Judge John Lee Parrot read the home assessment report on Hadaway, he noticed that she was living with her partner of seven years.

Based solely on the fact that she is a lesbian, Parrot denied the adoption and ordered Emma to be sent back to her biological mother.

Hadaway returned to Emma to her mother, but upon seeing her daughter’s distress, the mother later gave the girl back. She insisted that Hadaway should raise her.

Parrot ordered Emma into a foster home and sent Hadaway and her lawyer to jail for ten days for contempt of court.

Pending appeal, the sentence was stayed.

Last May, Emma was returned to Hadaway after a Wilkinson County Department of Children and Family Services report showed that she was emotionally traumatized by being separated from Hadaway.

A judge in another county gave Hadaway permanent custody, cutting Parrot out of the process.

Hadaway was represented by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian Gay Transgender Project.

“Just yesterday I was watching Emma hunt for Easter eggs and thinking how the possibility of going to jail and being separated from her again made it hard to just enjoy the moment,” Hadaway said. “I’m just so grateful that the court has lifted this burden so we can move on and I can keep focused on making sure Emma has a happy home and a good life.”

“None of this would have ever happened if the trial court had recognized this child’s needs and not been swayed by misguided beliefs about gay people,” said attorney Ken Choe. “No child should fear being torn away from home just because his or her parents happen to be gay.”

“We’re pleased that the court has agreed with us that Elizabeth Hadaway shouldn’t do jail time simply for doing the right thing for her child, but it’s unfortunate that it’s taken almost two years of court proceedings to end up with things where Elizabeth, Emma and Emma’s biological mom wanted them to be in the first place,” said Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “Elizabeth Hadaway did everything the judge ordered her to do, and she should never have been punished.”


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