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Florida justices hear lesbian custody dispute

BY BILL KACZOR, ASSOCIATED PRESS

1_for_web_04TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A bitter child custody dispute between two lesbians went before the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday, but the justices suggested the case may be sent back to a lower court and lawyers on both sides said it is unlikely to affect other couples, gay or straight.

Before the Brevard County couple split up, the genetic mother had donated an egg that was fertilized and implanted in the other woman, who gave birth in 2004. The couple separated two years later, and a trial court granted sole custody to the birth mother. An appellate court disagreed and said the women should share custody.

The lawsuit was filed before another appellate court struck down a Florida law banning same-sex couples from adopting. The state declined to appeal that 2010 decision.

If the Brevard couple had been able to adopt their daughter, both women would have retained parental rights when they broke up and the present case would have been unnecessary, said Robert Segal, the genetic mother's lawyer.

"It's a very narrow, limited legal issue," said Michael Jones, the birth mother's attorney.

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