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Case Summary & History

Family & Relationships

Case: Debra H. v. Janice R.

STATUS: Partial victory, New York

Debra H. and Janice R. were a same-sex couple living in New York who planned to have a child together and entered a Vermont civil union. After Janice gave birth to a child conceived through alternative insemination, Debra and Janice lived together and parented their child together for over two years. After the couple separated, Debra continued to visit the child regularly, until Janice cut off contact when the child was four-and-a-half years old. A trial court awarded Debra visitation, and Janice appealed that decision, arguing that Debra should have no parental rights.

The highest court in New York held on May 4, 2010 that Debra is a legal parent because New York must recognize a Vermont Civil Union for purposes of parentage. Unfortunately, the Court declined to overrule an earlier case, Alison D. v. Virginia M., which held that non-biological and non-adoptive parents cannot seek custody or visitation, leaving many families without legal protection.

NCLR wrote an amicus brief to the Court of Appeals that was joined by LGBT advocacy organizations from around the country. This brief was filed with the pro bono assistance of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

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