U.S. Supreme Court Declines Lesbian 'De-Facto Parent' Case, Letting Landmark Gay Family Decision Stand

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
October 10, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Supreme Court announced this morning that it will not hear a challenge to whether the former partner of a lesbian mother is entitled to visitation with the twins she helped raise since birth. At issue was a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in April that the non-biological mother maintains legal rights after breaking up with the biological mother.

The American Civil Liberties Union, co-counsel for the non-biological mother in the U.S. Supreme Court proceeding, hailed today’s decision as a victory for children, families and equality.

“The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear this case certainly doesn’t signify explicit approval of the lower court’s decision. But the Court’s decision not to intervene left an important victory for lesbian and gay parents intact, so we’re very pleased,” said Leslie Cooper, staff attorney at the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.

The case, M.J.B. v. V.C., revolved around twins who were raised jointly by their biological mother and her partner, known in court records as “V.C.” She and her partner, who began dating in 1993, purchased a home together and committed to each other in a religious ceremony. They raised the children together until their breakup in 1996. An appellate court granted V.C. the right to visitation with the twins. In a landmark ruling in April, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld that decision, and also outlined broad standards for non-biological parents recognizing that “psychological parenthood” could entitle them to visitation or custody of children.

The ACLU has argued that when an adult fills a parental role, the children’s bond with the adult should be respected. Several states (including Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Wisconsin) have legal frameworks for “psychological parenthood” similar to New Jersey’s and other states are grappling with how to protect children’s bonds with people who act as parents.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear this case tells states that they must resolve this important aspect of family law,” Cooper said. “As we have for years, we will help them do this in a way that strengthens families and ensures equality.”

The ACLU of New Jersey was co-counsel with the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project in the case. Robin Wernick, V.C.’s personal attorney, and David Wildstein were also co-counsel.

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