Judge: Sperm Donor, Not Lesbian Mom, Has Parental Rights

Kris Williams plans to appeal to Oklahoma Supreme Court
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2023 1:40 AM CST
Updated Feb 19, 2023 11:05 AM CST
Judge: Sperm Donor, Not Lesbian Mom, Has Parental Rights
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / Comstock)

"I guess I’m still in shock," says Kris Williams in reaction to a Monday decision by an Oklahoma district judge to award parental rights of a young boy not to Williams, but to the man who supplied the sperm. As KFOR reports, Williams married Rebekah Wilson in June 2019 when Wilson was 6 months pregnant with her son. BuzzFeed News reports some 9 months prior, Wilson and Williams found Harlan Vaughn on a paternity website. Wilson signed a sperm donor agreement with Vaughn that made no mention of Williams; as KFOR puts it, "at-home, non-medically assisted inseminations" resulted in a pregnancy that December. Both Williams and Wilson were listed as mothers on the boy's August 2019 birth certificate.

But the marriage collapsed roughly two years later. Wilson accused Williams of domestic abuse and harassment, and, along with the child, moved in with Vaughn in November 2021. Two months later, Vaughn filed for paternity. In her ruling, Judge Lynne McGuire noted that absent adoption or having carried the child, Williams couldn't establish a "mother–child relationship" under current Oklahoma law. BuzzFeed explains that "married couples who have children in wedlock," whatever their sexuality, "are legally presumed to be the parents." But McGuire said Oklahoma's 2014 parentage act preceded the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015.

Williams "admitted she knew that under Oklahoma law she needed to adopt the minor child to establish parental rights," wrote McGuire. "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.” Williams is appealing to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, with her lawyer arguing that "there is not case law precedent for these facts." NBC News notes Williams has not seen the boy since November 2021; Wilson and Vaughn have had a second child together. (More parental rights stories.)

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