Waldlaw Blog

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Fight for 3 Parents Goes to Canada

A Canadian woman is petitioning the Court of Appeal there for a finding that her son has three legal parents. Here is the scenario: She and her partner chose to have a child, and chose a known donor to provide the sperm. The child, now 6, has lived his whole life with the two women, but also sees his dad twice a week. As a practical matter, he has three parents. So now they are petitioning the court to recognize that reality and make it legal. This is a scenario that I see all the time, here in San Francisco in the Law Office of Deborah Wald. Many lesbian couples with known donors are raising their children with the donor acting as dad. And I have gay male clients who have used friends as surrogates where the surrogate continues to act as a mom although the kids live with the two men. Outside the LGBT context, I just spoke this weekend with an attorney in Seattle who is fighting to get legal recognition for a 3rd parent in Washington state under different circumstances -- in that case, the kid has a mother and a father and a stepfather who has raised him since the child was a baby, and all three parents agree that the child has three parents and should have legal relationships with all three. This issue is on the horizon -- through blended families, LGBT families, and other families created with the help of assisted reproductive technologies (such as egg or sperm donors), more and more kids have more than two people involved in their creation and parenting. And more and more of the parents are recognizing that openness is often a good thing for children, and are nurturing relationships between their children and all the various people who have helped create and raise them. And that often adds up to more than two. It will be fascinating to see how the Canadian court rules -- and how the Washington court rules -- and how other courts rule as these issues continue to come up. In the meantime, here's the article from 247gay.com, for those of you who are interested in more details: Lesbian Asks High Court to Name Her Third Parent of Partner's Child 09.28.06 By Troy Espera A Canadian lesbian is petitioning the Ontario Court of Appeal to recognize her as the third parent of a 5-year-old boy she's raising with her lesbian partner. According to CNN, final submissions in the case were heard Tuesday and a decision is expected within six months. The application, if allowed, it would mark the first time in Canada a child would legally have more than two parents, and would fundamentally change the definition of the word "family." CNN reports that the biological father and mother and her female partner must remain anonymous because of a court ruling protecting their identities. "The family has evolved over the years in a way that the law should recognize the reality of this little boy," said the father's lawyer, Alfred Mamo, told CNN. The original application made three years ago, requesting a declaration of parenthood, would give the mother's same-sex partner the same rights as if she were a biological parent. Ontario’s Globe and Mail reports that the application failed because the family court ruled that it did not have the authority to make the decision. The applicant appealed, arguing that she was in a special situation because same-sex couples require assisted human reproduction, reports Globe and Mail. So if the law does not allow for three parents, it is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee of equality, she argued. "It's discriminatory, because one of them gets legally recognized—the biological mother—but the non-biological mother, who is equally part of the process except for the biological bits, can't be legally recognized even though they both decided to have a child, planned for the child, arranged for the procreation and the birth, and they both jointly parent the child," the woman's lawyer, Peter Jervis, told Globe and Mail. According to CNN, the Alliance for Marriage and Family, representing conservative groups opposing the appeal, has filed a brief in the case, stating its belief that under family law in Canada, children can only have two parents. Janet Epp Buckingham of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada told CNN that in order to change the law “you would need to have the full hearings in the provincial parliament and it should be a legislated change." The Globe and Mail reports that the lesbian couple, who have been together since 1992, haven't told their five-year-old son about the legal proceedings but are worried he is coming to realize what is going on. He lives with them in London and sees his father twice a week. © 2006 GayWired.com; All Rights Reserved.


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