Changes to state parenting laws help fill gaps for same-sex couples

The United States is a patchwork quilt when it comes to the legal definition of “parent,' which is largely determined by state law.

8/1/2020 8:18:00 PM

“It is incredibly hard for families to have their status potentially change as they move across state lines.” LGBTQ people face a complex landscape when it comes to parenting, as laws vary from state to state and can call parental rights into question.

The United States is a patchwork quilt when it comes to the legal definition of “parent,' which is largely determined by state law.

Aug. 1, 2020, 8:30 AM UTCByJulie MoreauDr. Sara Watson and her partner, Anna Ford, always wanted children, but when Ford gave birth to their son, Eli, three years ago, Watson was told she could not put her name on his birth certificate even though he was conceived using her egg.

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At the time, the parentage laws in Rhode Island, where the unmarried couple resides, did not recognize Watson, who did not carry the baby, as a parent.“I’m the biological parent but not the birth parent,” Watson explained. “The way the law has been worded, the only way I could get parental rights was to adopt.”

Sara Watson, left, with her partner, Anna Ford, and their son, Eli.Courtesy of Sara WatsonHowever, adoption in Rhode Island requires a mandatory six-month waiting period.“For the first eight months of my child’s life, I didn’t have any parental rights at all,” Watson said. “His legal parents were my partner and an anonymous sperm donor.”

Watson, a family medicine physician, said the adoption process was onerous. She and her partner had to get three letters of reference attesting to their ability to be good parents; they had to have a home study; and Rhode Island law required that they put an ad in a newspaper in Massachusetts — where the anonymous sperm donation was from — asking if anyone wanted to claim the parental rights of their child.

Because she could not immediately establish legal parentage, Watson could not do many things that come with being a parent in her child’s first months.“I couldn’t add him to my insurance, I couldn’t pick him up from day care, I couldn’t authorize him going to the doctor or getting vaccines,” she said.

Eli WatsonCourtesy Watson familyWhile many same-sex parents across the country have encountered hurdles similar to those that Watson and her partner faced, changes are being made at the state level to address these legal gaps. Last week, Rhode Island and New Hampshire updated their parentage laws in ways that will prevent other LGBTQ parents from going through what happened to Watson.

Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act, legislation that allows same-sex and unmarried couples to establish parentage by signing a voluntary acknowledgement of parentage form and updates state law to accommodate children born using assisted reproduction and surrogacy.

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“Now, nobody will have to live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether their kid will have two parents at birth,” Watson said.In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 1162, a law that similarly allows unmarried couples — both straight and gay — to adopt children, extends second-parent adoption to same-sex parents and mandates that a court judgment of parentage can be used to secure the parental relationships of children born through assisted reproduction.

While parentage laws have become more inclusive in these two states, LGBTQ people across the country confront a complex legal landscape when it comes to parenting, which can vary from state to state, and can call their parental rights into question.LGBTQ people and women are most likely to fall through the cracks of parentage law because of the way the law has historically developed.

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THIS IS A DEMON LIFE STYLE KIDS MUST NOT B RAISED N THIS LIFESTYLE Why would one want to move to a community where they are not valued? And stop comparing white gay issues with the issues surrounding the black community . It’s always the white lesbians who have issues with white men . One white person calling another racist is beyond my scope of understanding , when white lesbians are wealthy ! So it’s not an economic thing it’s a respect thing . Change the language then!

I’ll bet this will change during the next ALL DEMOCRATIC administration. NBC News, your HQ for the Gay Agenda....

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During the Pandemic, Men Are More Involved Fathers. Will It Last? - Women’s Media Center“Do these vignettes signal a real change in the division of childcare, or are we witnessing a temporary blip that will fade when the economy reverts back to normal?” A crucial question. Women also saw very cleary where they stand. They are now thrown back into the 1950s. Daddy makes a bit more than Mommy, and since school is out, she is automatically picked to stay home with the children. Both are now resentful, exhausted and poorer. I hope it does last. Men need to understand that the concept of 'emotional labour' is actually a good thing for them - not doing it now means being alone and isolated when you are old, while women maintain friendships into their old age! They haven’t been though...