Declining to overrule a 19-year-old precedent, the New York Court of Appeals narrowly held Tuesday that a same-sex partner who has not adopted her partner’s biological child cannot assert visitation rights under New York law.

That conclusion came in Debra H. v. Janice R. (pdf), 47, an opinion in which the court also cleared the way for a lesbian to seek visitation with a non-adoptive child born to her former partner in a Vermont civil union, but only because the doctrine of comity requires New York to defer to the law of Vermont, which recognizes her as a parent.

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