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].