I know I’ve been silent for quite a while. Bit of a break. But there’s a new opinion that has brought me back to the keyboard. It’s from the Supreme Court of New Hampshire and is yet one more case of the breakup of a lesbian family. (Sadly you’ll find a number of those on the blog. Because the legal status of lesbian co-parents can be unclear there is often the opportunity for litigation if things get messy.)
For the purposes of its decision the court took the facts as stated by the petitioner, Susan B. I will do the same.
Susan and Melissa D met in 1997. They held a commitment ceremony (no legal marriage that time) in 1998. They wanted to have a family and bought a house together. Melissa gave birth to Madeline in 2002. She was conceived using sperm from an anonymous donor who shared Susan’s Irish heritage.
Many details seem to confirm Susan’s status as a parent (and here I mean social status):
Susan and Melissa decided to give Madelyn Susan’s middle and last names.
Susan and Melissa were both named as Madelyn’s parents in the birth announcements sent to friends and family and printed in the local newspaper, as well as in a “dedication ceremony” held in the Unitarian Universalist Church when Madelyn was a year old. Susan was listed as Madelyn’s parent in her preschool documents and in her medical records. Susan was involved in the daily care of Madelyn, and Susan and Melissa jointly made all decisions involved in raising Madelyn, including decisions regarding health care, education, and religion.
Back in March I put up a post about a column by David Dodge, who is a sperm donor for lesbian couples who are friends of his. (The idea is that he will be known to the child but will not function as a parent.) It was on the Motherlode blog (run by the New York Times).
Well, now it turns out that this is to be a weekly series under the name “Sperm Donor Diary.” This in itself is probably a sign of the times. Last week he posted about euphemisms, describing a conversation about what he was doing he had with, among others, an 11 year old brother. I didn’t comment on that, but it is surely worth a look. (It also strikes me that each of the first two columns in the series have a great deal to do with language–a reminder of how important the words we choose are.) One thing notable (and also carried over from the first entry) is the degree of openness in the process underway. This, I think, bodes well for the future. No secrets means no tension about letting secrets out.
Anyway, here is this week’s post and it has prompted me to write. Tori and Kelly are the lesbian couple involved. Kelly is pregnant (and the baby is due in July.) That’s as much as we knew in the past, I think, and it really isn’t that unusual. But it turns out that both Kelly and Tori provided eggs that were fertilized in vitro using Dodge’s sperm. Continue reading
I approach the topic of birth certificates with some trepidation, because it seems to be a particularly controversial topic. I approach Australian law with great trepidation, as I have no real understanding of Australian law. I rely on what others say, and that is always risky. So you can just imagine the degree of trepidation with which I approach the topic of Australian birth certificates. But nonetheless, here I am.
Some background first: One problem with talking about birth certificates is reaching an agreement about what they are/what they do. I’ve written about this a number of times. (See above trepidation.)
A number of things make the topic more complicated than it might at first seem. For one thing, I assume every country (and many states) have their own ways of doing things. Continue reading
First off, thanks to Natalie Gamble and Bill Singer for pointing me towards this case. It’s actually a nice complement to the Jason Patric case, which has been the focus of a lot of recent discussion here.
A lesbian couple in the UK wanted to have children. One woman provided eggs. (She’s the genetic mother.) These were fertilized in vitro and the resulting embryos were transferred to the other woman’s uterus. (She’s the gestational mother.) The gestational mother gave birth to twins.
Both women cared for the children with the genetic mother assuming the role of stay-at-home mom. As some point one of the earlier-created embryos was transferred to the uterus of the genetic mother and a third child was born. (The third child is a full genetic sibling to the twins.) Continue reading
This is in the nature of a belated acknowledgement of Mother’s Day (which has, of course, come and gone.) I’m not partial to the holiday as I think it a commercial construct. But of course, the idea of motherhood is endlessly fascinating to me.
As a nation it seems to me the US runs hot and cold about mothers, as it does about parents and children generally. Remember, as I’ve noted recently a number of times, that the primacy of children and their well-being is the one universally agreed upon point in all the litigation about same sex marriage? Everyone agrees we must do what is best for children. The disagreement comes when we get to what exactly is best for them.
Further, for the more conservative forces that the child needs a mother must seem virtually self-evident. Continue reading
Just a few months ago the supreme court of Idaho–a state not generally seen as wildly progressive–affirmed that Idaho law allowed a lesbian to adopt the child she was raising with her partner. Now France–a country often associated with expansive views–seems to be heading in the opposite direction. A court there (albeit a lower court) just held that a lesbian cannot adopt the child she has been raising with her partner.
In both of these cases what the prospective adoptive mother wanted was to gain legal recognition for a relationship that already existed in fact. This is not always what one seeks in adoption. Sometimes the law brings relationships into being–as when a person who has not been functioning as a parent seeks to adopt a child and become that child’s parent. But the law can also be called upon to grant legal recognition to existing relationships. When it does so it protects and solidifies those relationships. Continue reading
The two core legal relationships in family law are marriage (legal relationship between adults) and parenthood (legal relationship between adult and child). Over the years there’s been a lot here on the blog about the connections between those two relationships. But there seem to be an infinite number of ways to come at this and recently I’ve been pondering a couple of slightly different ways to think about this.
First off, I wanted to briefly comment on a tension that arises about the connection between marriage and parenthood in litigation around access to marriage for same-sex couples. There’s been a lot on the blog about the marriage cases and the role parenthood plays in them. The very recent MI opinion is a fine place to see this.
On the one hand, both side in marriage litigation agree that it is best to raise children within a marriage. Now I find this a rather problematic argument to rely on (and I’ll come back to that shortly) but like it or not it is a view that advocates and opponents of access to marriage share. And given that, it’s unsurprising that it’s a view that is affirmed in virtually every court opinion. Continue reading
I’ve only a moment but I wanted to post a quick update here. A couple of weeks ago I was following the hearing in Michigan where the state bar on marriage for same-sex couples was being reviewed. You’ll find a series of posts about the case, really for two reasons.
First, like many if not all of the marriage cases, the MI challenges was (in part) about marriage and children. The plaintiffs were two women raising children. Because they could not marry they could not adopt each other’s children–thus each child had only one legal parent. The women initially challenged Michigan’s refusal to let them adopt each other’s children and did not seek to marry. The judge suggested adding the question of whether the root problem was their inability to marry. Continue reading
I think we are rightly sensitive to issues of gender equity in parenting, but it seems to me it is also necessary to think critically about them. This was brought home to me by this story in the newspaper today. Does equality give a genetic father the right to be present at the birth of his child, just as the genetic mother will be? Or does the different between being the one giving birth and not being the one giving birth justify different treatment?
For anyone who thinks hard about parentage gender equity is a difficult topic. There are so many levels of sameness and difference that figuring out what amounts to equal treatment can be tricky.
On the one hand, men and women each contribute genetic materials to a child. On that basis one could determine that they are similarly situated and so principles of equality would suggest equal treatment is appropriate. But on the other hand, women are pregnant and men are not. If in this regard they are not similarly situated, then equal treatment is not warranted. How does one fit together the sameness and the difference? Continue reading
You all know I’ve been following that trial in Michigan where a lesbian family brought a challenge to MI’s restriction on who can adopt. The trial itself ended yesterday and now the matter rests with the judge. An opinion is expected in a couple of weeks.
To recap briefly, MI only permits married couples to adopt jointly–which gives the adopted child two legal parents. The plaintiffs in Michigan are two women (April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse) who are a longtime lesbian couple. One woman has adopted two special needs children from foster care, the other has adopted one special needs child from foster care. Each of the three children has one legal mother (and one non-legal mother–by which I mean a social/psychological mother who has no legal status.)
DeBoer and Rowse originally challenged the adoption restriction but the judge suggested broadening the challenge to include MI’s restriction on who can marry. Continue reading