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Lesbian Loses Custody Battle With Murderer

From Associated Press

An appeals court Friday ruled against a lesbian mother trying to regain custody of her daughter from her ex-husband, a man who murdered his first wife.

Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal said a judge who removed 12-year-old Cassey Ward from her mother a year ago based his decision on the child’s best interests--not Mary Ward’s sexual orientation.

“We are not suggesting that the sexual orientation of the custodial parent by itself justifies a custody change,” said the unsigned ruling by the three-judge panel.

The appeals court said Circuit Judge Joseph Tarbuck had enough evidence that living with her mother was detrimental to Cassey.

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Cassey lived with her mother until last summer, when Tarbuck revoked her mother’s custody, saying he wanted to give Cassey a chance to live in “a non-lesbian world.”

Cassey moved in with her father and his third wife.

John Ward pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of his first wife in 1974 and served eight years in prison.

Friday’s opinion cited Ward’s clean record since his imprisonment and his current situation: his marriage, stable employment and ownership of property.

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Charlene Carres, a lawyer for Mary Ward, said she was disappointed in the ruling. Carres said the decision would be appealed, probably to the state Supreme Court.

Carres said she thought the appeals court was wrong when it said Mary Ward’s custody was not revoked because of her sexual orientation.

“The judge’s order said outright she needs to be removed from a lesbian environment,” Carres said.


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