Woman at Center of Closely-Watched Gay Rights Custody Battle, Sharon Bottoms Mattes, Dies at 48

Sharon Bottoms Mattes, the woman who fought to overcome LGBTQ discrimination in a custody battle for her son in the 1990s, died at age 48, according to WTOP.

Sharon lost custody of her son to her mother in 1993 after a court ruled her same-sex relationship made her an “unfit parent”

Sharon divorced her husband, the father of her son Tyler, before Tyler was born. She soon stared dating a woman named April Wade and the two started living together. Sharon’s mother, Kay Bottom, sought custody of her grandson, and a juvenile court judge in Virginia ruled in her favor.

Kay testified during Sharon’s appeal that because Tyler called Wade “DaDa,” the boy would grow up not knowing the difference between men and women.

“I don’t care how my daughter lives” Kay said. “But Tyler will be mentally and physically harmed by this. We can take care of ourselves. He can’t.”

In the trial, Sharon said she kissed Wade around her son and engaged in sex in private. At the time, oral sex was considered sodomy in Virginia and was therefore illegal. It wasn’t decriminalized until 2014.

Circuit Court Judge Buford Parson ruled Sharon’s behavior “illegal and immoral” and rendered her “an unfit parent.”

A Virginia Court of Appeals ruled Sharon should have custody in 1994, but her mother appealed the decision to the Virginia Supreme Court and won, getting permanent custody of Tyler.

Sharon died on January 21. Tyler posted on Facebook mourning the death of his mother.

“Yesterday I had to say goodbye to my very best friend… She always told me, ‘It’s okay to cry baby boy,’” read the post. “I just never realized how much I’d need that. I love you mom.”