War Over Boy Raised By Gays
Brad Hamilton – New York Post May 30, 2004
An ugly tug of war is raging over the fate of a 6-year-old boy being raised by a gay couple who won custody of the child in a landmark decision in 2000. Gays hailed the ruling as a major victory for same-sex couples, but the boy has since become a troubled kid who punches his teachers and repeatedly says he wants to kill himself, according to an expert's report requested by his school. The report has spurred the mother to fight for increased access to her son, who has lived with the two men since the ruling - the first time a New York court awarded custody to a gay couple over a woman they claimed to be a surrogate. The mother says she was never a surrogate and that she, the father - once a close friend who worked for her - and his live-in lover intended to raise the child as a parental trio. "I just hadn't met the right guy yet," said Courtney St. Clement, 52, who had never been identified in the press or spoken out about her experiences. "They held out that they had a lot of money, and at the time, I felt like I was marrying a doctor. They said, 'We're a family.' We were supposed to all live together, but we didn't get that far." St. Clement, who runs her own marketing and consulting firm and lives on the Upper West Side, had no inkling of how badly things would go for her son, whose name is being withheld by The Post. He punches and kicks his teachers, hits and bites himself, curses and says he wants to kill himself as often as twice a month, according to the new report, completed in January by NYU's Child Study Center. It also says he repeatedly kisses and touches classmates inappropriately and once ran around naked. "[He] is exhibiting significant behavioral problems at school," said the report, which was based on a personal evaluation of the boy by two experts, along with interviews with his teachers and both parents and their spouses. It blames his unruliness in part on the "hostility" between his parents. "His mother and father have always lived apart and have had remarkably significant disputes regarding custody and visitation from very early on," said the report, which recommended that the boy be appointed a law guardian. He was previously kicked out of PS 116 as a kindergartner in 2002 after just two weeks there and placed in a private special-needs school on the Upper East Side. St. Clement says the family arrangement broke down after the father, part-time substitute teacher Gerald Casale, 47, and his partner, a trusts and estates lawyer, Ernest Londa, 46, stopped her from seeing the 6-month-old infant in April 1998. She then sued for custody. The partners claimed they struck a deal with St. Clement in which she agreed to carry Casale's child to term, then step back and allow them to be sole parents. "I think Ms. Clement has a certain bent," said Phyllis Levitas, Casale's lawyer. "My client and I have given this some very careful consideration, and we believe that it's not in the child's best interest to discuss this case with the media." Last December, St. Clement challenged the custody ruling - made by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Marylin Diamond - in light of the boy's disturbing behavior at school, and the boy's pediatrician requested a follow-up evaluation by a court-appointed specialist. In March, an appeals court ruled that the new judge in the case, Supreme Court Justice Joan Lobis, reconsider the custody question. But Lobis refused to take up the custody issue, denied the evaluation request and rejected the recommendation for a child guardian, spurring a motion in which the mother slammed Lobis for "abdicating her role as judge." Lobis' office did not respond to The Post's request for comment. The mother is part of the Alliance for Judicial Justice, a group of 200 litigants who suspect their cases were tainted by judges' personal interests, led by activist Anthony DeRosa.