Sharon Lynne Bottoms, a twenty-three-year-old divorced mother with custody of her two-year-old son, had become involved in a long-term relationship with another woman, April Wade. In March 1993, Bottoms' mother, Pamela Kay Bottoms, filed a petition in the juvenile court of Henrico County to obtain custody of her grandson on the grounds that he was living in an environment that was harmful to his mental and physical well-being. Judge William G. Boice agreed and awarded custody of the boy to his grandmother. In September 1993, a Henrico Circuit Court judge upheld Boice's ruling, calling the lesbian relationship between Bottoms and Wade “illegal” and “immoral,” which made Bottoms an “unfit parent.”
Sharon Bottoms appealed to the Virginia Court of Appeals, which ruled in June 1994 that custody should be returned to her. Kay Bottoms then appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which in 1995 reinstated her custody. The 4-to-3 decision noted that homosexuality could not be the sole factor in determining whether a parent is fit or unfit, but the opinion noted that the “moral climate” of the home and the “social condemnation” that the child might experience as a result of growing up in a lesbian household were among the factors taken into consideration.
Sharon Bottoms returned again to the Henrico County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in 1995 to request custody of her son, but in February 1996 Judge Boice upheld his 1993 ruling that she was not a fit parent, in part because she cooperated with producers of a made-for-TV movie about the case. Later that year Sharon Bottoms abandoned her legal fight and accepted twice-monthly visits with her son on condition that April Wade not take part.
In December 2011, Virginia's Board of Social Services approved regulations to allow state-licensed private adoption agencies to deny same-sex couples the right to adopt a child.
That is the law. Is it justice?