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JIC Post: BY KAREN SUDOLAsbury Park PressFREEHOLD, NJ — The birth certificate for Catherine O'Conor's and Stephanie A. DiVita's newborn son lists no parents."It lists nothing because we refused to fill it out," said DiVita before a court hearing Thursday morning to determine whether the Highlands lesbian couple can list both their names as parents of the child, born Tuesday and conceived through artificial insemination.Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Reisner delayed a decision on the issue Thursday to hear more arguments about the potential harm the couple and the boy could face while pursuing an adoption.Having both names on the birth certificate would guarantee 33-year-old O'Conor, the birth mother, and 32-year-old DiVita full parental rights immediately, the couple has argued. It is the first such birth-certificate challenge in Monmouth County.But the state Attorney General's Office has argued adoption is the remedy to establish DiVita's parental rights.While the couple is pursuing an adoption, their lawyer, Robin T. Wernik, maintains it is a costly and lengthy process — taking between six and nine months. The boy could be irreparably harmed during that time by not having all of the legal rights and benefits of both parents, Wernik said.For example, she said, if O'Conor died while DiVita was seeking adoption, DiVita would have no rights to the child.Reisner questioned why the matter couldn't be resolved by simply making the adoption judgment effective from the boy's date of birth. He scheduled a March 3 hearing to further discuss the issue.DiVita, who attended Thursday's hearing, said later she was disappointed with the postponement."It puts our life on hold and it's another reason to put our family on hold," she said. "It prohibits the child from having the rights and protection of two parents."Wernik has contended that the state's artificial insemination statute — which grants parental rights to a husband who consents to his wife's artificial insemination by another man — should be extended to same-sex partners. Not doing so violates the couple's state constitutional rights, according to the suit.In May, a judge in Essex County granted a lesbian couple the right to have both names listed on the birth certificate as parents of a baby girl, determining the state had failed to show why same-sex domestic partners shouldn't be permitted under the artificial insemination statute. The decision was the first of its kind in New Jersey.Wernik also argued that the state permits adoption by same-sex parents; the artificial insemination statute should be viewed the same way.Reisner also asked Deputy Attorney General Rachana R. Munshi why same-sex partners shouldn't be permitted under the artificial insemination statute.The Attorney General's Office maintains that the reference to paternity in the artificial insemination statute doesn't extend to domestic partners. And it is up to the Legislature to decide whether to include domestic partners in the statute, it says.O'Conor and DiVita registered as domestic partners in Manhattan in September 2002, which is recognized by New Jersey.
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