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In re Jacob - 86 N.Y.2d 651, 636 N.Y.S.2d 716, 660 N.E.2d 397 (1995)

Rule:

Under the New York adoption statute, a single person can adopt a child. N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law § 110. Equally clear is the right of a single homosexual to adopt. N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 18, § 421.16 (h)(2). Qualified adoption agencies shall not reject adoption petitions solely on the basis of homosexuality.

Facts:

These were two consolidated case in which proposed adoptive parents petitioned the New York family courts to adopt. 

In Matter of Jacob, Roseanne M. A. and Jacob's biological father (from whom she is divorced) separated prior to the child's birth and Roseanne M. A. was awarded sole custody. Jacob was a year old when Stephen T. K. began living with him and his mother in early 1991. Stephen petitioned to adopt Jacob with permission of Jacob's biological father. while other appellant petitioned to adopt the child of her *** partner.

In Matter of Dana, G. M. and her *** partner, P. I., who have lived together in what is described as a long and close relationship for the past 19 years. P. I. was artificially inseminated by an anonymous donor, and subsequently, she gave birth to Dana. G. M. and P. I. have shared parenting responsibilities since Dana's birth and have arranged their separate work schedules around her needs. With P. I.'s consent, G. M. filed a petition to adopt Dana.

In both cases, the family courts held that the adoptions were not authorized under the New York Domestic Relations Law, which the appellate courts affirmed the denial of the petitions by the family courts.

Issue:

Can an unmarried partner of a child's biological mother, whether heterosexual or homosexual, who is raising the child together with the biological parent, become the child's second parent by means of adoption?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The New York Court of Appeals found that the prospective adoptive parents had standing under N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law §110, which allowed unmarried adult persons to adopt, and citing laws and regulations that supported adoption rights of separated married adults and homosexuals. Language in § 110 referring to married couples "together" was intended to ensure that married couples mutually agreed to adopt. Furthermore, the lesbian partner could adopt her partner's child because N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law § 117 would not have severed the natural mother's ties, and was not applicable for purposes of standing. Section 117 was intended to protect the property interests of the adopted child. The court noted that other statutes specifically dealt with termination of rights, and cited examples where severance was not required, as with stepparent adoptions.

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