In a recent New York case, a father, in his will, dictated that his gay son’s child get nothing unless his son married the child’s mother. Manhattan resident Frank Mandelbaum founded the ID verification company, Inteli-Check, and passed away in 2007 at the age of 73. His son, Robert, a Manhattan Criminal Court Judge, is now arguing in a court battle that his longtime partner, Jonathan, is the only “mother” their infant, Cooper, has ever known. Robert and Jonathan married shortly after the baby’s birth via surrogate. The child is entitled to a share in a $180,000 trust established for Frank’s three grandchildren.
The Manhattan Surrogate’s Court is pondering whether to approve a settlement to ignore Frank’s requirement as contrary to New York law. Robert claims that Frank’s restriction “imposes a general restraint on marriage by compelling Robert Mandelbaum to enter into a sham marriage.” He alleges that this violates state law supporting marriage equality. The guardian ad litem appointed for Cooper agrees and stated “Requiring a gay man to marry a woman…to ensure his child’s bequest is tantamount to expecting him either to live in celibacy or to engage in extramarital activity with another man, and is therefore contrary to public policy.”
Frank’s wife is contesting Robert’s allegations claiming that Frank’s will “specifically prohibited [Cooper] from becoming a beneficiary." Robert counters that Frank knew Robert was gay and his partner was welcomed at family gatherings.
Given New York’s passage of the Marriage Equality Act, in July of 2011, I think the odds are in Robert’s favor, but stay tuned!