Californian lesbians equaled in rights with ordinal women at break-up

California's highest court has ruled that lesbian couples would have the same responsibilities and rights towards their children if they break up.

The ruling came in three separate cases involving lesbian parents who conceived under differing donor circumstances.

The court decreed that despite their differing circumstances each woman had custody rights and monetary obligations just as parents of the opposite sex do, according to BBC.

The court's ruling, involving three separate cases, is the latest to recognise rights of same-sex couples.

The court granted a woman the right to be the second mother of twins after the birth mother moved out of state. It also ruled that a lesbian woman cannot avoid paying child support for her former partner's biological children, News24 says.

And it decided another woman could not go to court to terminate the parental rights of her former lover years after obtaining a court order stipulating both were parents.

The decision comes as a bitter debate over gay marriage rages in California.

Three years ago the same court ruled that men who take on the role of a father figure can become legal fathers even of they are not the biological parents.

"These legal principles apply with equal force in this case," Justice Joyce Kennard said.

Being a legal parent "brings with it the benefits as well as the responsibilities," she added.

"The court is now protecting the children of same sex parents in gay families in the same way children are protected with heterosexual couples in heterosexual families," said Jill Hersh, a lawyer for one of the women.

The rulings come amid controversy over whether gay marriage should be legal in California.

San Francisco started issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples in February 2004, after the city's new mayor decided to defy state law and allow gay weddings.

More than 3,400 gay couples got married before California's Supreme Court ordered a halt the following month.

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