Burns v. Burns
GLAD submitted an amicus brief in this Georgia case, the first addressing whether a Vermont civil union has the force of marriage in another jurisdiction. The case concerns a divorced mother, Susan Burns, who was found in contempt of a visitation order that prohibited her from visiting with her children if she was residing with a non-marital partner. Susan is a lesbian who divorced the father of her children in December 1995. At that time, the court issued an order prohibiting either parent from visitation or residence with their children during any time when the parent cohabited, or had overnight stays, with any adult to whom they were not legally married or related. Susan entered into a Vermont Civil Union with her same-sex partner in July 2000. Shortly thereafter, Susan’s ex-husband sought to have her declared in contempt of the visitation restriction when the children stayed overnight in the home of Susan and her Civil Union spouse. The Georgia Court of Appeals, in a narrow decision, ruled that the couple’s civil union was not equivalent to marriage, and that Susan Burns was therefore in violation of the decree.
GLAD prepared and filed its brief jointly with the National Center for Lesbian Rights.