New York Court Grants Lesbian Visitation

July 11, 2000 12:00 am

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.– A lesbian who helped raise her ex-lover’s two children has been granted temporary visitation in a ruling believed to be the first of its kind in New York, the Associated Press reported.

According to the AP, the plaintiff, identified only as Janis, had a parental bond with her former girlfriend’s four-year-old boy and two-year-old girl, Westchester Family Court Judge Joan Cooney said in her ruling Monday.

Cooney allowed Janis to see the children for four hours every other week, beginning Sunday. A hearing on permanent custody was set for August 14.

“These children have the right of any other children to continue a loving relationship with their parents,” Cooney said.

Joan Iacono, Janis’s lawyer, said a New York judge had never granted even temporary visitation to a woman or man under such circumstances.

“This decision is a victory for children and families,” said Leslie Cooper, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “Courts are increasingly recognizing that families take many forms, and that what matters most is the bond children have with adults who function as their parents.”

Janis and the children’s mother, identified as Christine, started dating in the early 1990s and had a commitment ceremony in 1993. Soon after, Christine had the children by donor insemination. The couple had joint wills, baptized the children together and gave them both of their last names.

When Janis and Christine broke up last November, Christine refused any visitation. Janis sued, and after a bitter five-day hearing Cooney said Janis had established a parental bond.

“Christine chose Janis as a partner and a co-parent,” the judge said.

“I just can’t wait to hug and kiss my kids and not let go of them for four hours,” Janis sobbed.

Christine’s lawyer, Monroe Mann, said he would appeal and would ask that the visitation order be stayed.

Last November, without setting a precedent, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a Massachusetts ruling that said a lesbian who helped her partner raise a son had become a “de facto” parent entitled to visitation rights.

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