The clinic's family-recognition work reaches in many directions.
We work on marriage and domestic partnership for same-sex couples through litigation and legislative and policy advocacy; second-parent adoption rights; custody conflicts involving the rights of individuals who function as parents but do not have legal recognition of their parent-child relationship; and more.
The clinic participates actively in many of the cases around the U.S. seeking marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Supreme Court - Amicus Brief in Obergefell ; Tanco ; DeBoer ; Bourke
Puerto Rico - Amicus Brief in Conde-Vidal
Florida - Amicus Brief in Brenner ; Grimsley
Texas - Amicus Brief in De Leon
Indiana, Wisconsin - Amicus Brief in Baskin ; Wolf
Idaho - Amicus Brief in Latta
Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee - Amicus Brief in Bourke ; DeBoer; Henry ; Tanco
Hawaii, Nevada - Amicus Brief in Sevcik ; Jackson
Supreme Court – Amicus Brief in Perry ; Amicus Brief in Windsor
Iowa – Amicus Brief in Varnum
California – Amicus Brief: In Re Marriage Cases ; Amicus Brief: Perry Prop 8 Challenge
Connecticut – Amicus Brief in Kerrigan
Law Review Scholarship:
Always interested in leveraging our work, Professor Goldberg and two clinic students co-authored an article that includes and builds on the clinic's amicus brief in the Iowa marriage case (1). Professor Goldberg has also published an article that encapsulates arguments from an earlier marriage brief she filed on behalf of historians in the New Jersey marriage litigation (2) and an article that expands on the arguments made in the clinic's Connecticut and California marriage case amicus briefs, where the the question was whether the denial of marriage violated same-sex couples' rights even when the state already offered domestic partnership that provided nearly all of the legal rights and benefits of marriage. (3)
(1) Suzanne B. Goldberg, Sarah Hinger, & Keren Zwick, “Equality Opportunity: Marriage Litigation and Iowa’s Equal Protection Law,” The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice, 2008.
(2) Suzanne B. Goldberg, “A Historical Guide to the Future of Marriage for Same-Sex Couples,” Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, 2006.
(3) Suzanne B. Goldberg, “Marriage as Monopoly: History, Tradition, Incrementalism, and the Marriage/Civil Union Distinction,” Connecticut Law Review, July 2009.
The clinic works with organizations and government entities around the U.S. to create and support the provision of domestic partner benefits.
Domestic Partnership Ordinance Project
Domestic Partnership Spreadsheet
The clinic files briefs, provides background research, and otherwise is involved in efforts to secure legal protections for parents and children.
Second-Parent Adoption in Puerto Rico
Matter of AAR - The clinic submitted an amicus brief to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court in a second-parent adoption case that aims to secure a child’s legal relationship with her two mothers. The brief focuses primarily on showing how international law, human rights norms, and comparative law from around the world can and should inform the interpretation of Puerto Rico’s adoption law to allow for second-parent adoption.
AAR Amicus Brief - English
AAR Amicus Brief - Spanish
Functional Parenting Rights in New York
Debra H. v. Janice R—On behalf of 45 family law academics from all of New York State’s law schools, the clinic submitted a brief to the New York Court of Appeals on behalf of a nonbiological mother who is being denied parenting time with the child she was raising with her former partner. To reinforce the brief’s arguments in a more public forum, the clinic published an op-ed in the Albany Times Union.
Debra H. Amicus Brief
Times Union Op-Ed
Media coverage of Second-Parent Adoption
Matter of N. – At the request of the Surrogate’s Court in New York State, the clinic, through Professor Goldberg, submitted a Guardian ad Litem report for the purpose of evaluating whether it would be in a child’s best interests for CNN to film the child’s second-parent adoption. The report relied on media, sociological and other studies to show that no expert evidence indicated that the child, who has two fathers, would be harmed by the exposure and, further, that increased exposure of same-sex couples parenting children together can help to alleviate biases toward gay parents and the children in their households.
Matter of N. Guardian Ad Litem Report
Surrogacy Law and Policy in the U.S.
Finkelstein (J.D. ’17), Mac Dougall (J.D. ’16), Anya Olsen (J.D. ’17), "Surrogacy Law and Policy in the U.S.: A National Conversation Informed by Global Lawmaking," Report of the Columbia Law School Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic, May 2016.
Surrogacy raises many complex, contested, and ever-developing questions at the intersection of the law, science, ethics, and public policy. Surrogacy concerns both the most intimate and deeply personal aspects of family life, but also important public matters about promoting and protecting the best interests of vulnerable groups such as children, women, and minorities, both nationally and across international borders. This debate occurs in a context where surrogacy is now a fast-growing and globalizing industry. At least several thousand children are born each year as a result of surrogacy arrangements, and this could be a significant understatement. This Report aims to inform advocates and citizens about important developments and fundamental issues concerning surrogacy. This information can be a particularly useful tool in evaluating proposed changes in state surrogacy laws.
Part 1 of this Report introduces the international surrogacy industry and how surrogacy is currently regulated in the U.S. and across the globe.
U.S. states have responded to the policy issue of surrogacy in very different ways. Some states expressly allow surrogacy. However, other states leave surrogacy partially or fully unaddressed, and some expressly prohibit surrogacy altogether. Despite the wide degree of inconsistency across the U.S., most states are moving away from prohibition and towards regulation. New York is one of only four U.S. states that bans surrogacy entirely.
There is no consensus on how to approach surrogacy around the world. In some countries, surrogacy remains unregulated, but there is a general trend towards introducing laws that explicitly address surrogacy one way or another. Other jurisdictions permit and regulate only non-commercial surrogacy while prohibiting commercial surrogacy. Finally, there are some countries that permit all forms of surrogacy, including commercial surrogacy. Many surrogacy-friendly jurisdictions have become or were previously destination states for foreigners. Many concerns have been raised about the lack of regulatory, legislative, and health standards, making conditions dangerous and exploitative for surrogates and children in these locations. Notably, many destination countries are working to close down their international surrogacy markets.
Part 2 of the Report canvasses the key arguments for and against the legalization of surrogacy.
An important starting consideration is that many people have a strong desire to be a parent even though they may not be able to carry a child themselves. This includes LGBQTI couples (especially gay men), single people, and people suffering from infertility, disability or other health problems. But the right to have a biological family needs to be balanced with other rights and interests. A competing concern is what is in the best interests of children. Key issues include the risk of a child becoming stateless, the right of a child to know their ancestry, and broader concerns about the commodification of children. However, as a practical matter, states must also do what is in the best interests of children who are born through surrogacy even where parents have contravened their laws. Also paramount are the rights and interests of surrogates. Key issues include surrogates’ bodily autonomy and informed consent. Critically, the situation of individual surrogates is also connected to the much broader concerns about the objectification and exploitation of disadvantaged women worldwide. Furthermore, there are arguments regarding the impact of surrogacy upon deeply held convictions regarding the family. Finally, this Part concludes with an overview of key issues regarding the impact of state intervention. A key question is whether regulation serves to legitimize an inherently dangerous and exploitative practice or whether it is the best route to mitigate the risks of surrogacy and promote the interests of all involved.
As this Report demonstrates, one of the difficulties in assessing the arguments for and against surrogacy is the lack of data on surrogacy as well as limited empirical studies into the consequences of surrogacy across hugely varying contexts. Even where data and empirical studies are available, many of the arguments are grounded in ethical, philosophical, religious, or other normative positions that are difficult to empirically measure or to compare against each other.
Part 3 of this Report then moves to examine New York’s proposed bill, the Child-Parent Security Act, Assemb. B. 4319, 2015 Assemb., Reg. Sess. (N.Y. 2016), as a case study in analyzing such proposed legislation. This Part considers the proposed criteria for intended parents and surrogates, and how these criteria compare with the approaches taken in other jurisdictions. Part 3 also examines the proposed requirements for the content and enforceability of surrogacy contracts including provisions regarding compensation, in comparison with other jurisdictions. Finally, this Part considers and compares how the proposed bill assigns parentage presumptions and manages the transfer of parental rights.
Surrogacy is undeniably an immensely complex and controversial policy issue. Neither international trends nor the practice in other U.S. states provides clear guidance for policymakers. Similarly, there are compelling arguments both for and against surrogacy, which are often incommensurable to one another. However, in light of growing and globalizing surrogacy trends, decisions made by individual states will have important ramifications not only for the residents of this state but across the U.S. and the international community as a whole.
Read the full report.