Nevada Domestic Partnership Law and Parentage

A couple of days ago Nevada enacted domestic partnership legislation.   (The legislature over-rode the governor’s veto.)   The legislation grants registered domestic partners (how may be of the same sex or of different sexes, which is unusual) most of the rights granted to married couples.

I just wanted to take a moment to note that this has direct implications for establishing parenthood in Nevada, though perhaps they aren’t obvious at first blush.

Suppose I had a child and I got married.   Then I wanted my spouse to adopt the child.   The spouse would not go through a full-blown adoption proceeding.  In most states there’s some abbreviated proceeding for instances like this, sometimes called a “step-parent adoption.”  It’s generally cheaper and faster and less intrusive.

Registered domestic partners in Nevada have access to step-parent adoptions.    This makes it easier for lesbian and gay partners to both become legal parents of their children.   Nevada’s not the only state where this is true.  I just thought I’d use the occasion of Nevada’s new DP bill to mention it.

Two closing points:   In those states where unmarried couples are not permitted to adopt, being part of a domestic partnership won’t help you.   That goes back, for example, to the Louisiana birth certificate problem. (Indeed, being married in a state that allows same-sex couples to marry won’t help you either, because states like Louisiana won’t recognize the marriage.)

Finally, you may notice that many lesbian and gay couples who plan their families as a joint endeavor from the get go aren’t really akin to families with step-parents.    For most of us, a step-parent is a person who joins the ongoing enterprise of parenting after it has already begun.   In many planned lesbian families one woman gives birth but the intention is that both women will be parents all along.   In most states the most reliable way to get the second woman legal rights is to have her adopt, and the step-parent adoption works because it is an adoption that adds a new parent without extinguishing the rights of the existing parent.   But it is an imperfect analogy at best.

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