NY Appeals Court: Lesbian Mom Has No Rights to Unadopted Child

“A New York state appeals court has ruled that a lesbian whose partner gave birth to a boy after their Vermont civil union has no parental rights because she never legally adopted the child. The Appellate Division denied the petition by Debra H. for joint legal and physical custody after she and Janice R. broke up. The court said Debra H. lacked parental rights although the now-5-year-old boy was born a month after the Vermont civil union and two months after the women registered as domestic partners in New York City. Debra H.’s lawyer Bonnie Rabin said the child thinks of her client as one of his mothers and seeing her is in his best interest. Rabin said she intends to appeal.” [WCBS]

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11 Comments

  • rogue dandelion

    should we be fighting for expanded civil union protections, or using this as argument for marriage equality? or neither?

  • Heather Hostetler

    @rogue dandelion: Or both. My two cents: Waiting on moral high-ground for marriage while people suffer needlessly when we could expand civil unions faster doesn’t make sense. Expand civil unions. But don’t stop there. Make the case for marriage equality also. Multitask towards full equality. :)

  • Geoff

    @Heather Hostetler: I think you’re absolutely right….but then again…….see how well we did in California with only ONE issue? Since they couldn’t even compentetly handly prop 8, I’m not sure our flagship leader organizations could even begin to handle multiple issues like broadening our full rights. I guess I’m a little cynical after the Prop 8 debacle.

  • Ali

    @Geoff, we have to try anyway.

    And all the issues have one common ground. They’re fighting homophobia where it exists in discriminatory legal standards statewide and nationwide.

    As more people gain awareness and perspective it will become easier for all gay rights to be passed. So a multi-front track is the way to go.

  • Family Fairness

    This case is actually pretty unusual as far as custody and visitation cases go. Typically, acting “in loco parentis” to a child (meaning, basically, acting like a parent to the child) is sufficient to establish custodial or visitation rights. The New York appellate court was acting on an old (bad) case called Matter of Alison D. v. Virginia M., which set the very atypical rule that you must be a biological or adoptive parent to have any rights at all. Some legal professionals are even theorizing that the appellate court denied Debra H. rights so that her case would be appealed to New York’s highest court for them to overrule the old (again, bad) precedent.

    I wrote more about this case here: http://familyfairness.org/blog/family/second-parent-adoptions-vital-same-sex-couples-lose-custody/

    Though I agree that we need expanded civil unions or, even better, full marriage rights, this case is so unusual that it makes for a poor example. We do not want to be like our opponents and cite fringe situations as if they were commonplace.

  • Alec

    @Family Fairness: Isn’t that still a minority rule, though?

  • Family Fairness

    @Alec: It depends on the context. It was my understanding that in situations like this in which a second parent is trying to establish rights in addition to the rights of the first parent (as opposed to superior rights over the first parent), this rule is almost universally applied. Granted the situation itself is somewhat uncommon, so there is not a lot of case history to establish what the typical rule would be.

  • paulied

    I’d just like to go on record as stating that Janice R. is a filthy cunt who demeans and diminishes us all with her selfishness and bitterness. Shame on you Janice R. – you are a disgraceful excuse for a lesbian, a woman, and a human being. Fuck you!

  • Michael vdB

    It is easy to speak volumes and be a critic when it comes to cases like this…always trying to peg who is the evil one and who is the good one. The main fact is a family has broken up and a child is put in the middle. Doesn’t matter who makes up that family…it is tough for both sides, especially that child. Most of us do not know all the facts so I wouldn’t judge.

  • paulied

    @Michael vdB: What I am saying is that this pig exploited our lack of equality for her own selfish purpose. If we were equal, nothing short of this woman being a murderer or pedophile would cause the court to rip a mother’s child away from her. Even without knowing any particulars, I stand by my assessment of her character – or lack of it.

  • Alec

    @paulied: This is a legal argument being advanced by her attorneys. She could have any number of reasons for not wanting her former partner to have visitation or custody rights.

    I don’t think this is necessarily limited to same-sex partners, eithe; the same thing can happen in many states to step parents.

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