A New York appeals court has rejected an attempt by a sperm donor to assert parental rights to a child who was removed from a lesbian couple and put in foster care because of neglect complaints.
Judge Robert Mulvey of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department wrote in his opinion that the man, identified only by his first name, Christopher, had failed to establish that it would be in the child’s best interests to order paternity tests and grant him parental rights.
“While young, the child’s ‘image of her family’ – consisting of two mothers – would be devastated by an outsider, who merely donated sperm, belatedly asserting parental rights,” the court said.
The ruling drew immediate outrage from a family-advocate group.
“A little girl is in foster care. Her father wants to get her out and take care of her, but the courts are forbidding him to even take a paternity test,” wrote Jennifer Roback Morse, the founder of the Ruth Institute, writing in a commentary at The Stream website.
“Men have a natural desire to protect and provide for their children. I cannot imagine how helpless this man must now feel. He evidently absorbed the Grand Gay Narrative that assures us that biology is overrated: any two people who love each other and the child are just as good as any others.”
Morse said that if the “Grand Gay Narrative” is true, “a man might logically conclude that agreeing in advance to stand down from active fatherhood was a fine thing to do, costless to himself and his child, and beneficial to these two women.”
“The problem is that the Grand Gay Narrative is false. Biology does matter: both parents and children care about their biological connections.”
However, she warned men against donating sperm to same-sex couples.
“Donating sperm may sound like a humanitarian gesture, but it could come back to haunt you,” she said.
Morse pointed out that the two women — identified in court as Jessica ZZ and Nichole ZZ — engaged in an informal agreement in which Christopher waived any claims to paternity, custody or visitation, and the women waived any claim to child support.
When Christopher discover the girl was being neglected so badly that she was put in foster care, he tried to intervene.
“Now the father is being denied any rights to care for his child,” Morse said.
A lower court was moving forward with a plan for a paternity test when the appeals court slammed the brakes.
In the New York appeals court, judges Philip Rumsey, John C. Egan Jr., Eugene Devine and Christine Clark joined Mulvey in determining that the child would be harmed by having a relationship with her biological father.
“The testimony at the hearing established that the child had a bonded relationship with both parents, and the fact that they are both mothers does not warrant a finding that the child has an interest in knowing the identity of, or having a legal or familial relationship with, the man who donated sperm that enabled the mother’s conception,” the judges said.
They continued their advocacy for same-sex “marriage.”
“Contrary to Family Court’s apparent conclusion, granting the request of a sperm donor for a paternity test would effectively disrupt, if not destroy, this family unit and nullify the child’s established relationship with the wife, her other mother. Testing in these circumstances exposes children born into same-gender marriages to instability for no justifiable reason other than to provide a father-figure for children who already have two parents. This would be indefensible.”
The judges found “that the harm to the child’s mothers and to the child’s relationships with her family cannot be separated from the analysis of the child’s best interests.”
In the last paragraph of the ruling, the court finally noted the petitions of neglect against the lesbian couple but said they didn’t affect the ruling.
“This court was advised that the child has been in foster are for a lengthy period of time since the hearing and that there are reportedly neglect petitions pending against respondents, the details of which were not known to any of the parties’ counsel,” the judges penned. “These developments are certainly relevant, concerning and appropriately considered.
“However, we find that the subsequent events, on which we take no position, do not alter our conclusion that respondents established at the hearing that petitioner should be equitably stopped from asserting paternity under the circumstances known to Family Court.”
The judges said: “Allowing ongoing, successive consideration of subsequent developments and problems within the child’s family after respondents had already established, at the hearing, that petitioner should be estopped from asserting paternity, should not be permitted. Doing so would continue to invite challenges to the then-established family unit into which the child was born, creating instability and uncertainty.”
Jacksonville, Florida’s First Coast News, which noted the couple lives in Chemung County, New York, explained that New York’s same-sex marriage law affords same-sex married couples the same legal rights as traditional couples.
Morse said that while the court acknowledged the neglect issues were a problem, the judges didn’t let that sway their support for same-sex “marriage.”
“In the court’s logic, this man ‘merely donated sperm, belatedly asserting parental rights.’ In other words, he is not a father unless we say so,” she wrote.
“Neither of these women has pulled herself together enough to have the little girl returned to her care. I was a foster parent in San Diego. I know that child welfare agencies try to give parents every opportunity to reunify with their children. If the child has been in foster care ‘for a lengthy period of time,’ these two women must be bad news. Christopher was trying to be a nice guy in 2014 when he donated the sperm. He has been trying to be a responsible father since April 2015 when he first petitioned the court.
“Isn’t this how we want men to behave toward the children they sire?”
She said the court’s ruling does not protect the child’s best interests.
“Their ruling circles the wagons to protect the Grand Gay Narrative.”