Va. Beach same-sex parental dispute case moves ahead

A judge issued a landmark ruling for gay parents.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- In what legal observers call a landmark same-sex custody case, a judge decided a Virginia Beach woman has the same parental rights as her estranged-wife, who gave birth to the couple's baby.

Karen and Lauren Poole were legally married in Maryland in 2013. The next year they decided to have a child. 

Through artificial insemination, Karen impregnated herself with the sperm of a mutual male friend, who subsequently left the country and has no legal standing in the relationship.

Karen gave birth to a baby boy in July 2014, but the couple separated the following January. The estranged couple have yet to divorce.

On Friday, Virginia Beach Circuit Court Judge Steven Frucci ruled Lauren, despite not having a DNA connection to the boy, is as much of a parent as Karen is to the child.

"It felt amazing ... to finally hear what I already knew and what I already felt." Lauren Poole said outside court.

Lauren and Karen both broke down into tears as the judge issued his opinion during Friday's hearing.

Karen currently has a protective order taken out against Lauren that is expected to expire in a month.

Judge Steven Frucci indicated he would allow Lauren to have visitation with the child. But Frucci will wait until the end of January to rule in order to give the guardian ad litem -- an attorney for the baby -- time to weigh in.

Attorneys for the couple say the ruling could set a precedent, being the first of its kind in Virginia.

"While we accept the ruling of the court, our client was disappointed," said Kathleen Edge, an attorney for Karen Poole. "We will be reviewing our next steps. These are issues that the legislature needs to address."


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