On May 26, 2005 the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) announced that it successfully obtained a court order yesterday granting a lesbian couple the right to have both of their names listed on their child’s birth certificate, pursuant to New Jersey’s artificial insemination statute. The artificial insemination statute protects a child’s relationship to a non-biological parent who consents to his spouse’s artificial insemination. This is the first known order of its type in the State of New Jersey.
“We are thrilled that the court gave legal recognition to our family, and we are relieved that we won’t have the uncertainty and fear about whether our daughter would be protected if something happened to one of us,” said Kimberly Robinson, who gave birth to Vivian on April 30, 2005.
When choosing to have a family, Kimberly and Jeanne LoCicero, who are registered domestic partners and also married in Canada last summer, decided that Kimberly would give birth to the baby, using an anonymous donor through artificial insemination.
“The court’s decision ensures that Vivian’s relationship to Jeanne is recognized as of Vivian’s birth, rather than placing her rights in legal limbo while awaiting adoption proceedings,” said William Singer of Singer & Fedun, who represented the couple on behalf of the ACLU-NJ. “Delaying recognition of Jeanne’s relationship to Vivian would have put Vivian’s rights at risk, depriving her of being immediately acknowledged as having two parents who are responsible for her both legally and financially.”
The court accepted the ACLU-NJ’s argument that, since the statute seeks to ensure the best interests of children, it must be read in a manner consistent with that purpose. Since Jeanne and Kimberly had met every indicia of commitment contemplated under the statute, the ACLU-NJ successfully argued that there would be no purpose served in denying Jeanne and Vivian the same parent-child status to which a male heterosexual and his non-biological child (via his wife’s artificial insemination) would be entitled.
Indeed, although the artificial insemination statute was written in terms of “husband” and “wife,” the court noted that any possible interest in limiting the statute to children of heterosexual couples only was not sufficient to overcome the best interests of the child. New Jersey courts have long recognized that, in parentage cases, the best interests of the child are paramount and that a child should not be denied the right to have two loving parents regardless of the intended parents’ sexual orientations.
Because the question at issue was the relationship between Jeanne and her child (as opposed to the relationship between Jeanne and Kimberly), the court specifically did not address whether New Jersey should recognize an out-of-state same-sex marriage. Rather, the significance of Jeanne and Kim’s Canadian marriage was that it provided one more piece of evidence that established the couple has done everything possible “to declare and to be recognized as committed partners, a married couple, and a dedicated family.”
The ACLU-NJ had previously appeared in a case in which a five-year-old child was denied Social Security benefits after the death of his biological mother’s lesbian partner -- despite the facts that the couple jointly decided to have the child, that they raised the child together since birth, and that the deceased partner was the family’s main wage-earner -- because the adoption had not yet taken place.