NASW, N.Y. Chapters File Brief in Same-Sex Parenting Case

— Heidi Sfiligoj, News Staff

NASW, along with its New York State and New York City chapters, filed a motion and an amicus brief before the New York Supreme Court in the case Debra H. v. Janice R.

The brief supports petitioner-respondent Debra H.'s standing to obtain a hearing to determine whether she should be awarded custody and visitation of M.R., and also her motion for leave to appeal.

M.R. is the child Janice gave birth to at least one year after she and Debra moved in together, and to whom Debra provided critical emotional, physical and financial support.

NASW and its New York State and New York City chapters first filed an appellate "friend of the court" brief in the case in February of this year, based on a successful outcome in the trial court, which initially ordered a hearing to determine whether Debra H. met the legal criteria as a psychological parent to M.R. Before the hearing could occur, M.R.'s biological mother appealed and the trial court's order was reversed and the case dismissed. NASW continued its support for the case as amicus curiae by filing a second brief on May 18 in support of a further appeal.

The new brief states, "NASW files this brief in support of M.R.'s development and well-being — and in support of the development, well-being, and best interests of all similarly situated children in the State of New York."

In the brief, NASW argues:

  • Children form strong bonds of attachment to their parents early in life.
  • The development of attachment bonds has nothing to do with biology or the formal adoption process.
  • Research consistently shows that lesbians and gay men parent as heterosexuals do.
  • Continuity of the parent-child relationship, no matter the sexual orientation or legal or biological status of the parent, is essential to a child's healthy development and overall well-being.

The brief also argues that numerous empirical findings "provide a solid research basis for predictions of long-term harm associated with disrupted attachment [relationships] and loss of a child's central parental love objects," and that the findings are no different for children of same-sex parenting relationships.

"Thus, Debra should be permitted to assert whether she has standing to petition for custody or visitation of M.R. To do otherwise could result in the dissolution of a critical parent-child attachment bond, and could be devastating to M.R.'s development, happiness, and well-being," the brief concludes.