Queer History: Lesbian mom denied custody

Dec 26th, 2008 | By | Category: Uncategorized

Mary Jo Risher and Ann ForemanOn this date in 1975, a divorced mother in Texas is denied custody of her children because of her sexual orientation.

Mary Jo Risher’s ex-husband, Mike Guettner, sued to have his son removed from her custody because she was a lesbian. His lawyer implored the jury not to make the youngster “a guinea pig in someone else’s social experiment.”

The Texas jury of ten men and two women denied Risher custody of her son solely on the grounds of sexual orientation. The verdict was a legal setback for gay-rights activists, who contend that homosexuality should not be considered an obstacle to being a good parent.

Media critic, Malinda Lo, wrote about the 1978 TV drama “A Question of Love” which was based on the real-life story of Mary Jo Risher’s unsuccessful battle for custody of her youngest son after her divorce from her husband.

“During the trial it is revealed that Mike Guettner was never an ideal father or husband. He not only broke his wife’s nose once, but was also arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, and (most damning at the time) paid for an 18-year-old girl to have an abortion when he thought she might be pregnant with his child.” – writes Malinda Lo in her After Ellen column.

“But despite all of these marks of shame, the court sides with Mike Guettner, who gains custody of both of his sons…. Mary Jo Risher appealed the court’s decision, but lost a second time. – writes Lo.

PrideDEPOT.com editor, independent journalist & LGBT media spokesperson,
Jody May-Chang now writes on "As I See It...Reporting from the front lines

As I See It Jody May-Chang.com Reporting from the front lines

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