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NYCLA Announces Victories in Two Cases Involving the Rights of Former Partners in Same-Sex Couples
May 7, 2010 – New York, NY – On May 4, the New York Court of Appeals expanded the rights of non-biological parents in non-traditional families in two cases, as urged by the New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) in amicus briefs. The cases were H.M. v E.T., which involved a biological mother seeking child support from her former same-sex partner, and Debra H. v. Janice R., which involved custody and visitation rights for a former same-sex couple.
The victory is consistent with NYCLA’s long-held advocacy for the equal treatment and civil rights of all people, and its commitment to equality not only for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, but also for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples and families.
H.M. v E.T.
H.M. v E.T. is a case in which NYCLA had submitted an amicus brief in support of the biological mother, who had sought child support from her former same-sex partner. The child had been created through medical insemination, but the non-biological mother claimed that she was not the child’s parent and should not be responsible for child support. The Court of Appeals ruled that the Family Court had jurisdiction to determine if the non-biological mother is, in fact, the parent and obligated to provide child support.
Debra H. v. Janice R.
Debra H. v. Janice R. is a case in which NYCLA had joined in an amicus brief, in support of the non-biological mother who had sought custody and visitation rights for the child that she and her ex-civil union partner had planned for and created together. The Court of Appeals ruled that the non-biological mother had custody and visitation rights – but only because she is recognized as a legal parent under Vermont law, based on her civil union. The Court noted that New York, like other states, must recognize a legal parental status granted in another state, just as it does parentage created by an adoption in a foreign country. The decision falls short of what many LGBT civil rights activists had hoped for because the Court indicated it still would not recognize a gay parent’s relationship to his or her child unless the parent were the biological parent or in a legally recognized relationship with the child’s biological parent. The high court explicitly reaffirmed its 1991 Alison D. v. Virginia M. decision that allows only biological or adoptive parents to seek custody and visitation.
The New York County Lawyers’ Association (www.nycla.org) was founded in 1908 as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual identity. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.
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