A ruling handed down Tuesday gives
parental rights to gay parents who raised children with their
partners outside of marriage.
The New York State Court of Appeals
said such parents can seek custody and visitation rights.
Plaintiff in the case is a lesbian
woman who was raising a son with her fiancee. The relationship
soured before New York began issuing marriage licenses to gay and
lesbian couples in 2011.
Representing the non-biological mother
– known simply as Brooke B. – were Lambda Legal, Blank Rome LLP
and The LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York.
“[T]oday, we overrule Alison D. and
hold that where a parent shows by clear and convincing evidence that
the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child
together, the non-biological, non-adoptive partner has standing to
seek visitation and custody under [New York's Domestic Relations
law],” Judge Abdus-Salaam said in his majority opinion.
Susan Sommer, national director of
constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal, called the ruling a
“landmark change in New York for children born to same-sex
“Prior to today's decision, New York
law on this issue was tragically stuck in 1991, when the Court of
Appeals ruled in the Alison D. case that non-biological, non-married,
non-adoptive parents are legal strangers to the children they raised
with a same-sex partner,” Sommer said.
A year after they met, Brooke and
Elizabeth, her former partner, get engaged in 2007. The following
year, Elizabeth became pregnant using an anonymous donor. Brooke
remained involved in her son's life after the couple split up in 2010
until 2013, when Elizabeth abruptly cut off contact.