At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, our primary work involves working with elected officials to influence the shaping of public policy. Occasionally, however, we have the opportunity to influence court proceedings as well.
Several weeks ago, we requested permission to file an amicus brief (also known as a friend-of-the-court brief) to the Supreme Court of the United States in Frank G. v. Joseph P. and Renee P.-F., a parental rights case that arose here in New York. The brief was filed on our behalf by David R. Upham, Esq., an Associate Professor of Politics and Director of Legal Studies at the University of Dallas. The brief was also filed on behalf of another organization, the National Association of Parents, Inc.
Frank G. v. Joseph P. and Renee P.-F. is a custody dispute involving twin nine-year-olds. Frank G. is the twins’ father, and Joseph P. is Frank’s former domestic partner. The twins were conceived through in vitro fertilization. Their biological mother, Renee P.-F., is Joseph’s sister; Renee also carried the twins to term. It appears that Renee intended to relinquish her parental rights to the twins to allow Joseph to adopt them; however, this action was never taken. In 2014, after Frank and Joseph ended their relationship, Frank moved from New York to Florida with the twins. Joseph and Renee went to court and asked for Joseph to be granted custody of the twins. Despite the fact that Joseph is not a biological or adoptive parent of the twins, the court sided with him and ordered Frank to return the children to him. The twins are now separated from their father. This unfortunate situation finds its legal basis in In Re Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A. C.C., a 2016 New York Court of Appeals decision holding that the domestic partner of a biological parent may seek child visitation and custody if he or she shows “by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together.”
Katy Faust of Them Before Us, another group that has sought to file an amicus brief in the Frank G. case, wrote a recent op-ed about it. Faust observed, “The root problem with New York’s expanded notion of parenthood is that it grounds parenthood in the consent of adults, not in the natural rights of children… [This notion] flows from the Supreme Court’s logic in [Obergefell v. Hodges], which sees marriage as a vehicle for adult fulfillment that has nothing to do with the natural rights of children. New York law now demands that both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, which are not equally ideal for kids, be treated equally in matters of parenthood.” Furthermore, Faust asserts that the definition of parenthood embraced by the Court of Appeals gives government “power to override the claims of parents to their children” and treats children as “commodities to be awarded to whichever adult has the money and means to acquire them.”
Here’s hoping that the Supreme Court reads our amicus brief and rules correctly in this case.