The Lesbian Mothers National Defense Fund (LMNDF)


The LMNDF was featured in the 2006 documentary film, Mom's Apple Pie: The Heart of the Lesbian Mothers National Defense Fund. The following information is quoted from this film.[1]

"The Lesbian Mother's National Defense Fund was an organization formed to support women who were going through divorce and custody cases so that they could retain custody, or at least visitation, with their children." Lois Thetford.

“There wasn’t a single case in the United States in 1972 in which a lesbian mother had won, not only won custody that hadn’t happened, but even won normal visitation rights.” Barbara ‘Boo’ Price.

“The overwhelming legal standard is always best interest of the child so that leaves a lot of discretion to the court judge.” Jean Rietchel.

One of the impacted children, Melissa Hart, spoke about her experience in the film: "I think divorce is devastating to young children in general, but to be taken away from an absolutely wonderful mother, I mean this was our girl scout leader . . . to be taken away from her because she was sleeping with a woman and dropped into our father's extremely abusive and volatile household, it was devastating.

“We have managed to find 10 cases that have been won in court by open lesbians. That is 10 cases, total, ever, in the United States and Canada that there are records on.” A February 1976 LMNDF newsletter, "Mom's Apple Pie," as quoted in the film.

According to the documentary film, "Between 1974 and 1980 the Seattle-based Lesbian Mothers’ National Defense Fund provided assistance to over 400 lesbian mothers.”

A 1994 article published in The Progressive focused on the work of the LMNDF: "Twenty years ago, when we started out, there were maybe three cases at one time," says Jenny Sayward, director of the Lesbian Mothers' National Defense Fund, which has been assisting lesbian mothers with custody cases since 1974. In the last few years, more and more lesbian mothers have been fighting for their kids, thanks in part to the Fund.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to custody battles is the expense, according to Sayward. The Fund helps mothers obtain reduced-cost legal services and provides information to attorneys preparing for litigation. Through its grass-roots "Adopt-a-Mother" program, it links mothers to supporters around the country, who arrange fundraisers for the mother's legal bills.

Those who want to show support for gay and lesbian parents who have been separated from their children because of sexual orientation can also join the Lavender Ribbon Campaign, says Sayward, and wear ribbons to heighten public awareness.

Education is an important part of the Fund's mission. Backed by a small grant, the organization has recently printed a series of inexpensive informational pamphlets for lesbian mothers, covering donor insemination, the basics of custody, and family issues."[2]


  1. Mom's Apple Pie: The Heart of the Lesbian Mother's Custody Movement, Directed by Jody Laine, Shan Ottey and Shad Reinstein. Frameline Media, San Francisco CA, 2006.
  2. "Lesbian Mom's Defense Fund" in The Progressive (Madison, WI) Feb. 1994 Vol. 58, Issue 2, p. 15.