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Bill Keeps State Courts From Denying Some Child Adoptions

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed legislation (S.3999/A.460) prohibiting New York state courts from denying child adoptions to petitioners who are already a legally-recognized parent solely on that basis.

The bill protects parents whose names were not on the birth certificate, same-sex couples, and parents who had a child through surrogacy from being denied an adoption when the parent petitioning is already recognized as the child’s parent.

“All parents deserve the same rights and the same recognition under the law — period — and it’s unconscionable that this isn’t the case in every corner of this nation,” Cuomo said. “These new protections will help ensure that all families are treated with fairness and equality and that no parent encounters unreasonable barriers in a court of law.”

The legislation passed unanimously in the state Legislature, 144-0, with both Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, voting in favor.

While the spouse of a woman who gives birth to a child is presumed to be the child’s parent, same-sex couples find themselves in a legally precarious position when traveling beyond New York state, in places that do not fully respect the rights of non-biological parents. Under the new law, a New York adoption would be honored in another jurisdiction. This gives children the security that both their parents will be legally recognized wherever family members may be.

Under existing law, judges routinely grant adoptions to petitioners who are a legally-recognized parent of a child. However, courts have at times denied a married same-sex couple an adoption.

This bill codifies existing law to explicitly state that a petition to adopt shall not be denied solely on the basis that the petitioner’s parentage is already legally-recognized, ensuring that couples’ access to such adoptions could not be fettered by future court decisions.

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