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New York high court expands rights of nonbiological gay parents

The New York Court of Appeals [official website], the state's highest court, issued two rulings Tuesday expanding the rights of nonbiological gay and lesbian parents. In one case, the court ruled [opinion, PDF] 7-0 that a lesbian can assert parental rights over the biological child of her partner, reversing a lower court decision [JURIST report]. The court found that Debra H. could seek visitation rights from her former partner who conceived a child via artificial donor insemination (ADI) after the pair had entered into a civil union in Vermont. The court held, "that where a child is conceived through ADI by one member of a same sex couple living together, with the knowledge and consent of the other, the child is as a matter of law - at least in the absence of extraordinary circumstances - the child of both." Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal [advocacy website] Susan Sommer hailed the ruling [press release] as "a terrific outcome for our client," bur urged the New York legislature to "pass legislation clarifying children's legal relationships with both their intended parents, regardless whether the parents have entered into a marriage or civil union." In a separate case, the court ruled [opinion, PDF] 4-3 that a lesbian could seek child support from her former partner.

Gay rights continue to be a contentious issue both in New York and throughout the country. In December, the New York Senate rejected legislation [JURIST report] that would have legalized same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] in the state. Last year, the Manhattan Surrogate Court ruled that the surviving partner of a same-sex marriage performed in Canada is entitled to inherit the estate [JURIST report] of a deceased spouse. In 2008, New York Governor David Paterson issued a mandate requiring that any and all out-of-state same-sex marriages be recognized [JURIST report] as legal within the state of New York. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Washington, DC [JURIST reports]. Same-sex civil unions are currently recognized in Washington, New Jersey, Oregon, and Nevada [JURIST reports].

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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