New York Court Gives Gay Parents More Rights

Under a new ruling by New York’s highest court, same-sex parents are guaranteed consideration for custody or visitation in the event of divorce or death. Previously, the non-biological partner had these rights, but only if that parent legally adopted the shared child.

The ruling does not extend custody and visitation rights to all same-sex couples -- only to those united in civil unions in states that allow them. The court narrowly defeated an opinion that would not have relied on these civil unions and would have extended the rights to all same-sex couples.

Professor Edward Stein of Cardozo Law School says the new ruling means a lot for same-sex couples in New York, but it’s still probably best for non-biological partners to adopt the child, in case they end up in another state where courts don’t recognize gay rights.

“If there’s an adoption order they’re going to be hard pressed not to recognize that. That’s a final judgment of a court, which they’d be obligated to give full faith and credit to,” Stein says.

The state high court has rejected calls for gay marriage, saying it’s up to the legislative branch to make such a law.

In another decision Tuesday, the court unanimously affirmed that in the event of divorce, biological parents can seek child support from non-biological partners.

The 4-to-3 ruling reflected a divided court. A minority wanted to extend custody and visitation rights to all same-sex couples, but the prevailing opinion limited the rights to couples bound by civil unions.