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Beth R. v. Donna M.

Supreme Court of New York
853 N.Y.S.2d 501 (2008)


Facts

Beth R. (plaintiff) and Donna M. (defendant), both residents of New York, became romantically involved in 1999 and moved in together in 2002. In 2003, Donna became pregnant through artificial insemination. At the time, the state of New York did not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the province of Ontario, Canada did. The couple obtained a marriage license in Toronto, intending to marry prior to the birth of the child but had to postpone the ceremony when Donna’s father died. A daughter, “J.R.,” was born to Donna in October 2003. In February 2004, the couple married in Toronto, surrounded by family and friends. In 2006, Donna bore another daughter, “S.R.,” again through artificial insemination. Although Donna did not allow Beth to adopt the girls, they called her “mom” and were given Beth’s last name. In other respects, too, Beth was treated as the girls’ mother. She participated in their care, education, and upbringing, contributed to their support, and covered them under her medical insurance policy. Beth and Donna each procured life insurance policies naming the other as beneficiary, and Donna’s will named Beth as the girls’ guardian. In late 2006, Donna asserted that she wanted to terminate the marriage. Beth filed for divorce, which Donna moved the court to dismiss on the ground that the marriage was void under New York law. Beth filed a cross-motion in which she sought a legal determination of whether she would have rights and obligations toward the girls’ custody and support. Beth desired to remain part of the girls’ lives. The trial court considered the parties’ motions.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Drager, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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