Carmen Edmonds and Priya Shahani were involved in a romantic relationship from 2003 until 2015. During this time, they became engaged, intended to spend the rest of their lives together, and were committed to one another exclusively.  Because Ohio did not recognize same-sex marriage during this time, however, Ms. Edmonds and Ms. Shahani were never able to get legally married.

During their relationship, Ms. Edmonds and Ms. Shahani had three children together through artificial insemination.  Ms. Shahani was the biological mother, and the two chose a sperm donor of Columbian heritage to match Ms. Edmonds heritage. Ms. Edmonds attended all prenatal doctor’s visits, contributed financially to the process, and they gave each child the last name of “Edmonds-Shahani.” 
The women executed various legal documents recognizing one another as equal co-parents, including a Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney.  

In 2015, the relationship deteriorated, and the parties entered into a formal agreement to unwind their relationship.  The agreement divided the parties’ property and agreed to a parenting schedule for the children.  In 2017, Ms. Shahani began excluding Ms. Edmonds from parenting decisions and information.  Ms. Edmonds thereafter filed a complaint in the Hamilton County Juvenile Court for Parentage, Custody, and in the Alternative, Shared Custody, Visitation or Companionship Rights.

The juvenile court held that a same-sex partner does not fall within the definition of a “parent” under Ohio statutes. In reaching this conclusion, the court relied on a 2002 case from the Ohio Supreme Court, In re Bonfield, 97 Ohio St. 3d 387, 780 N.E.2d 241, 2002-Ohio-6669, which held that only the partner in a lesbian couple who contributed to the egg of a child is the “parent” and the other partner is merely a “custodian.”  Ms. Edmonds is appealing the court’s decision to the Ohio First District Court of Appeals. 


Ohio lags behind other states in denying legal standing to unmarried, non-biological parents and fails to recognize the legitimacy and importance of these parent-child relationships. Many states have abandoned biological interpretations of “parent” in shared parenting statutes, while others have adopted equitable or “de-facto parent” doctrines to allow same-sex couples to establish parentage claims. Our brief will provide the court social science arguments recognizing the attachment bonds between children and parent figures, and the harmful effects of interfering with or removing those attachments.


The appeal was filed on November 2, 2022. Several extensions were granted and appellant’s brief was filed on January 30, 2023. Appellee’s/cross-appellant’s brief, and our amicus brief, were filed on April 20. The Jones Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice also filed an amicus brief in support of appellees. On May 1, appellant/cross-appellee Shahani filed an opposition to the filing of both proposed amici briefs. The court accepted the amicus briefs on May 3. Appellant Shahani filed her reply on May 23, and appellee Edmonds filed her reply on June 1. On June 26 the case was stayed by the Court and the parties were ordered to participate in mediation. The stay expired on August 28. On July 27, Appellee/cross-appellant Edmonds filed as supplemental authority a Michigan Supreme Court decision in a similar case. Appellant/cross-appellee Shahani filed a response to this supplemental authority on August 9. On December 5, Appellant Shahani filed a notice of supplemental authority referencing a decision in the Nevada Supreme Court.

On January 19, 2024, the First District Court of Appeals reversed the juvenile court decision, remanding to the juvenile court for a determination of whether the parties would have married at the time of the child(ren)’s conception but for Ohio’s unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The court held that if this fact can be affirmatively established, the non-biological, non-adoptive same-sex parent should be recognized as a legal parent under Ohio law. The court recognized the protection that marriage provides to children and families, and the benefits under state law. It also found this holding not to be inconsistent with Bonfield, which was decided prior to Obergefell.


Amy Gilbert, Freda Levenson, and Anne Camper, General Counsel of NASW


First District Court of Appeals



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