By Matt Manochio, Daily Record, NJ, March 17, 2003

State judge’s ruling gives gay couple full rights to unborn child

This week’s ruling by a Family Court judge in Sussex County allowing a lesbian couple to be listed as parents on the baby’s birth certificate is being both praised and criticized as changing the definition of a family.

State officials said it was the first time that two women who were both physically tied to an unborn child had tried to make sure they were both listed on the birth certificate. One woman is carrying the child and her partner provided the egg, and they plan to raise the child together.

The ruling Tuesday by Superior Court Judge James A. Farber, who presides in Newton, means that the unidentified women will share a financial obligation to the child as soon as it is born, and if one parent dies, the other immediately will have custody.

“It paves the way for other people, other women who are a couple in a similar situation,” said Melissa Brisman, a Park Ridge lawyer specializing in reproductive rights, who argued on behalf of the lesbian couple.   

Brisman argued that New Jersey law states there are two ways to prove parentage. One is to prove a woman is the birth mother, and the other through DNA.  

“In both cases they can prove they are the mother and both are sharing that legal status,” Brisman said, adding that similar rulings have been handed down in Colorado, California and Massachusetts.   

Brisman added that the ruling will “ensure that their child will be taken care of.”

The women pursued in vitro fertilization after one of them tried unsuccessfully to conceive with her own eggs and artificial insemination.

The court records in the case are sealed to protect the identity of the women and their unborn child.

Farber’s ruling was well received by the Gay Activist Alliance in Morris County, a support group that caters to homosexuals statewide.

“I would say it is a significant ruling and that it recognizes family,” said David Morris, the group’s director of public policy. “Our definition of family has changed over the years.”

Louis Giovino, director of communication for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which is headed by William Donohue in New York, said the ruling undermines the traditional meaning of what compromises a family.

“This is just another way to just get rid of the family being a father and a mother and a child,” Giovino said. “In a way it’s a form of child abuse. It gets rid of the father. A child deserves a mother and a father.”

Morris refuted the claim that a mother and father are necessary to rear a child.

“I think it is not nearly as important to have a mother and father for a child, but to have parents who love and support the child,” Morris said. “I don’t think the gender of the parents is as important as the love and support.”

Associated Press reports contributed to this story.