OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — LGBTQ+ experts around the country are closely watching a divorce child custody case in Oklahoma County, because it could have implications in other states.
This is a complicated legal battle between a lesbian couple and a sperm donor who is now asking the court to be the legal father.
Kris Williams and Rebekah Wilson dated five years before they married.
Williams remembers they talked about having children from the very beginning.
The women were both LGBTQ+ advocates, regularly working together to champion the rights of gay and lesbian youth in Oklahoma.
Both were well-known for their fierce compassion for the rights of lesbian couples.
In 2019, they married for love.
Williams and Wilson formed a blended family: two moms, Kris’ teen son and a baby boy.
“That was my dream,” Williams remembered. “My dream came true.”
Wilson carried the child, conceived by artificial insemination from a contracted sperm donor on the app, JustABaby.com.
“There was a contract here, and the contract was done in Texas at a conference between the sperm donor and the biological mother,” said family law attorney, Robyn Hopkins, who represents Kris Williams.
On the day of the baby’s birth, Williams cut the umbilical cord. The Oklahoma birth certificate lists “mother and mother.”
“It’s pretty simple; black and white,” said Hopkins. “I’m not sure why we are getting caught up in the gray.”
Late last year, the marriage fell apart.
Wilson refused to allow Williams to see their young son.
She filed a victim protection order and claimed abuse.
Then, in a shocking legal maneuver, Wilson used a loophole in the law to have her wife removed from the baby’s birth certificate.
“Whenever you are a married couple, the child is presumed to be of both of the mother and the father,” said ACLU Oklahoma’s Hanna Roberts. “So, under these facts, if it had been a married heterosexual couple, there wouldn’t be a question as to who the father and mother were designated by the court.”
Oklahoma County Judge Lynn McGuire ruled the non-gestational mother, Kris Williams, “failed to establish parental rights.”
Even though she was on the birth certificate, the judge ruled Williams should have adopted her own child.
According to Oklahoma State Statute Title 10, a child born to a married couple is presumed to be the baby of the mother and father, regardless of biological connection.
The problem is, this isn’t a case of mother and father, it’s a case of mother and mother.
In Oklahoma, many consider it a gray area of the law.
“The statute is written relating to mother and father, and so that’s part of the reason why this mother was unable to be successful in her initial claim with the court,” said family law expert Stacey Wiebelt. “In this instance, I’m not sure that the judge had any other choice but to enter the ruling that she did.”
Many states have adopted gender-neutral language in this area of law. Oklahoma has not.
“I think it’s absurd that to us, LGBTQ+ parents are asked to jump through these additional hoops,” said Freedom Oklahoma’s Nicole McAfee. “It’s not fair to us LGBTQ+ parents. But, it’s also not fair for kids to know that at any point in time the courts may dismiss their parental relationships.”
Freedom Oklahoma calls the ruling a clear case of discrimination in the law.
Rebekah Wilson won’t answer our questions about the case or about her legal strategy here.
Her attorney, Seth Von Tungeln will not comment on the case.
In court filings, Wilson has claimed her wife has no standing as the baby’s legal mother because Williams didn’t adopt the boy after birth.
Every time the couple meets in court, the law seems to favor the gestational parent.
“I spent over two years of my life with my child, bonding with him even when he was inside (Wilson) and growing. There is a connection there, and for the courts not to respect that and honor that is mind blowing to me,” Williams said.
Wednesday, Judge McGuire will hear a motion to reconsider the ruling that removed Williams from the birth certificate.
Judge McGuire will also rule on a challenge to the emergency VPO in place.
The court will also hear a paternity claim filed by Harlan Vaughn, the sperm donor.
Earlier this year, Vaughn filed a motion to intervene in the divorce case. He has petitioned the court to be named the legal father of the baby boy.
According to Williams, Vaughn had no contact with the family or the baby until the boy was almost 20 months old.
According to court records, Wilson and Vaughn signed a sperm donor contract before he donated for the artificial insemination.
Brande Sanders is friends with both moms.
She confirmed to KFOR she was there in late 2018 when Wilson and Vaughn signed the sperm donor contract.
The notary also confirmed to News 4 Rebekah Wilson and Harlan Vaughn notarized that donor contract where he relinquished all parental rights to the child.
“The intent was very clear to all of us that were present,” Sanders said. “There was a contract that had been printed out. We went down (to Dallas, Texas). We met the donor and his boyfriend. It was very clear that (Williams and Wilson) wanted to put protections in place for the donor to not be able to go and seek any type of of rights or relationship.”
The case is making headlines around the country; a study in equal rights.
There are also 13 other families watching very closely.
Fourteen couples belong to a private Facebook page called “HV Littles.”
“HV Littles” is administered by Harlan Vaughn.
It’s a private page for couples who are recipients of Vaughn’s donated sperm.
On the group, Vaughn appears to have helped 14 couples get pregnant with babies born in the past two years, between 2019 and 2021.
In court filings, Rebekah Wilson claims she is now living with Harlan Vaughn, co-parenting the baby boy for the past six months.
Kris Williams hasn’t seen her son in seven months.
News 4 has asked repeatedly to speak with Rebekah Wilson, her attorney, Harlan Vaughn or his attorney, Rachel Morris. They have all refused to comment on the case.
All three parties will meet again in Judge McGuire’s courtroom Wednesday, June 1, at 1:30 p.m.
KFOR will continue to follow the case.