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In a landmark ruling, New York’s highest court last week overturned its own 25-year-old precedent on parental rights. It’s being hailed as a win for gays, but we’re not sure it’s a win for children.

To be clear, we understand the need to update the law to cover same-sex couples — who (at least with current technology) can’t both be biological parents of the same child.

And we see no problem with the specific finding of the Court of Appeals, granting some custody and/or visitation rights to any parent who can show “by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together.”

Yet previous law actually did give gays a way to lock in those rights — since it recognized a presumptive right to custody or visitation not just for biological parents, but also adoptive ones.

But our larger concern is the trend toward emphasizing “parental rights” in the context of divorce (or separation, in the case of parents who never married). In fact, the overriding question in matters of custody should be the best interests of the child.

Yes, the court claimed it was embracing exactly that priority in this ruling — but its actual directives seem to treat kids like property to be divided according to contractual agreements.
Family breakup is a brutal affair, whether those splitting are a traditional husband and wife or some other union.

But the law’s guiding principle should remain the same: The best interests of the children must always be paramount.

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