New York Times

Wednesday, June 30, 1999

Gay Parent Visitation Rights Upheld

By The Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) -- Gay people who help their partners raise a child have visitation rights after the couples break up, the state's highest court has ruled.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday in the case of a lesbian who helped her partner raise her son, saying the woman was ``de facto'' -- or ``in fact'' -- a parent of the child.

``It is to be expected that children of nontraditional families, like other children, form parent relationships with both parents, whether those parents are legal or de facto,'' Justice Ruth Abrams wrote for the four-member majority.

Gay and lesbian parents can adopt in Massachusetts, which would make them legal parents. But in the case considered by the court, the non-biological parent had not adopted the child.

Justice Charles Fried, in a strongly worded dissent, said allowing visitation ``was wholly without warrant in statute, precedent or any known legal principle.''

He also charged that the court was taking an unwarranted step toward endorsing same-sex marriages, calling the decision ``judicial lawmaking.''

Gary Buseck, executive director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders that helped bring the case to the courts, lauded the ruling.

``This is a great victory for the kids,'' he said. ``It's certainly a victory for gay and lesbian families.''

Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company