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Va. woman who lost gay rights custody battle to her mother dies

WASHINGTON — Sharon Bottoms Mattes, who lost custody of her young son to her mother in 1993 after a Virginia court ruled her same-sex relationship made her “an unfit parent,” has died at age 48.

In 1991, Sharon Bottoms gave birth to a son, Tyler Doustou. She and the boy’s father divorced before the baby was born.

Soon after, Bottoms began dating April Wade and the two started living together near Richmond.

Bottoms’ mother, Kay Bottoms, sought custody of Tyler, saying it was in her grandson’s best interests.

A juvenile court judge ruled in Kay Bottoms’ favor.

During Sharon Bottoms’ appeal, Kay Bottoms testified Tyler called Wade “DaDa,” arguing the boy could grow up not knowing the difference between men and women if he were allowed to live with her daughter and Wade.

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

In trial, Sharon Bottoms had acknowledged kissing Wade in Tyler’s presence, and had engaged in sex in private.

In 1993, oral sex was considered sodomy in Virginia, when performed by anyone. It was decriminalized in 2014.

Tyler’s father, Dennis Doustou testified that his ex-wife should be granted custody of their son.

However, Circuit Court Judge Buford Parson ruled Sharon Bottoms’ “conduct is illegal and immoral” and “renders her an unfit parent.”

Bottoms was allowed to visit with her son from Monday morning to Tuesday evening, but was not allowed to bring him to her home.

In 1994, a Virginia Court of Appeals ruling determined Sharon Bottoms should have custody of her son, but her mother’s appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court was successful, and she was granted permanent custody of Tyler.

In 1996, Sharon Bottoms dropped her fight for custody.

According to Facebook posts, Sharon Bottoms married Bill Mattes, in 2012.

She died Jan. 21, 2019. Her obituary was posted in the Jacksonville Daily News, in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Tyler Doustou posted a tribute to his mother on Facebook: “Yesterday I had to say goodbye to my very first best friend, Sharon Mattes. She always told me, ‘It’s okay to cry, baby boy.’ I just never realized how much I’d need that. I love you, Mom.”

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