Lambda Legal Applauds New York Court Ruling Affirming Adoption Rights for Married Same-Sex Couples

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October 12, 2016
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A New York family court issued a decision last week affirming that married lesbian couples continue to be entitled to second parent adoptions to give added security to their children, who already are entitled to have both spouses recognized as their parents. The court’s decision came after Lambda Legal and its co-counsel submitted a legal memo last month on behalf of four couples, all from Brooklyn, who had sought adoptions to safeguard their children. The Court’s decision also confirms that children born to married same-sex spouses in the state have two legal parents, with or without adoptions and regardless of genetics.

“The Court ruling is very clear that children born to married same-sex couples already have two legal parents,” said Susan Sommer, National Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal. “But so long as uncertainty persists in this country and abroad about the status of children conceived by same-sex couples using assisted reproduction, children’s best interests are served through second parent adoptions confirming what already should be crystal clear everywhere: the legal parental status of the second non-biological parent. Children have a right to both of their parents, and taking a ‘belt and suspenders’ approach is the best way to secure that right. As this decision confirms, the courts have the authority and responsibility to issue second parent adoptions for children in these families.” 

Lambda Legal filed the memo on behalf of four married lesbian couples who had petitioned the family court for second parent adoptions of children they conceived using assisted reproductive technology. Each of these couples planned for and intend to raise their children together, even though only one of the two parents is genetically related to her child. As the legal parents of the children, they are entitled to all the rights and responsibilities that come with being a parent in New York and anywhere they may travel with their children. But because the laws that define parenthood vary from state to state, these couples sought the added security of adoption decrees to confirm the parent-child bond for the non-biological parent.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell affirmed that same-sex couples and their children across the country are entitled to all the protections that come through marriage, but some states, like North Carolina and South Carolina, where Lambda Legal is litigating, have resisted giving full recognition to those rights. And disparities persist around the nation in laws about assisted reproduction, making parents wise to seek the extra security of second parent adoptions.

The Court’s decision confirmed that married same-sex spouses using assisted reproduction are both the legal parents of their children, with or without adoptions, and that genetics and adoption aren’t the determinants of parentage. The Court also acknowledged the lingering uncertainties and resistance to parenting rights for same-sex couples in the U.S. and abroad, and thus the importance of access to second parent adoptions for these families. Finally, the decision confirmed the courts’ ongoing authority to grant adoptions to spouses who already are the legal parents of their children under New York’s marital presumption of parentage.

Lambda Legal was joined on the memorandum of law by the following co-counsel, who represented the families in their adoption proceedings:  Teresa D. Calabrese; Rebecca L. Mendel of Rosin Steinhagen Mendel; Melissa B. Brisman and Nancy M. Hartzband of Melissa B. Brisman, Esq., LLC; and Andy Izenson of Diana Adams Law & Mediation, PLLC.    

Read the memo. http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/ny_20161012_memorandum-law-judicial-authority

Read the decision. http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/ny_20161012_matter-of-l