While Texas Weighs Birth Certificates for Same-Sex Parents

Also in the news (along with the surrogacy story I just posted), is this from Texas.   Andy Miller and Brian Stephens have a son Clark, who they adopted just days after he was born in 2007.

Generally speaking, Texas issues “supplemental birth certificate forms” for adoptive parents.  And if Andy and Brian were male and female, they’d have a nice new certificate listing them both as parents.   But Andy and Brian are not male and female–they are both men.   And Texas won’t issue a new birth certificate for them.   According to the Texas Department of Health Services

the supplementary birth certificate of an adopted child must be in the name of the adoptive parents, one of whom must be a female, named as the mother and the other of whom must be a male, named as the father.

(The emphasis is mine and the original is here.)

This is the same problem faced by Oren Adar and Mickey Smith in Lousiana a couple of years ago.   I followed that case for a long time as it worked its way through the courts.  (The link is to the last post.)   Eventually the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Louisiana and said that it didn’t have to issue a birth certificate to the two men.   Critically, the court in Adar did not say (and I do not think it could say) that Louisiana didn’t have to recognize their parental rights.

So to return to Texas, Miller and Stephens would like a birth certificate that lists them both as parents.   In the absence of a birth certificate, same-sex parents end up using various legal documents (many of which are unfamiliar to the authorities that must review them.)   Given Adar, same-sex parents and their supporters are not appealing to the courts in Texas.  Instead, they’ve got a bill before the legislature.    If enacted, it would require issuance of a birth certificate to couples like Miller and Stephens–same-sex legal parents.

I know that many people here object to the fact that adoptive parents routinely get new birth certificates, but the issue here is really one of fairness–why do some adoptive parents get them and not others?   I’ll try and keep an eye out to follow along with the progress of the legislation.


63 responses to “While Texas Weighs Birth Certificates for Same-Sex Parents

  1. I think the original reasoning behind naming the adoptive parents on the birth certificate was because at the time secrecy was thought to be a good thing. It was thought that no one should ever be able to find out the kid was adopted. This rationale would not apply to a same sex couple.
    However, society has moved further away from secrecy so there is no point in differentiating between a same sex adoptive couple and an adoptive couple.
    I think the long confidential form and short public form that somene once suggested on the blog- is a good idea. The confidential form lists all the biological facts and the short form lists the legal parents.

    • What is so disturbing is that the rest of the world does not get to keep the genetic reality of who their parents are a secret. Other bio parents are not allowed to hide their identities as people with offspring why should people who don’t raise their children get to pretend they don’t have any at all?
      Everyone knows someone who was raised by a relative or guardian who was not their parent and that person had the authority to make decisions on their behalf without having an altered birth record that named them as one of the kid’s parents.
      The thing about a birth certificate is that it does not belong to a person’s parents it belongs to them. Think about it…whose birth certificate is it? Is it the mother’s birth certificate? The father’s? No it is their child’s birth certificate and it is intended to document the fact that they exist, they were born, they are a person with rights.

      • I think there are several questions rolled in together here. First of all, the same-sex couple isn’t keeping anything about genetic connection secret. No one would assume they were both genetically related to the child. A heterosexual couple might be concealing lack of genetic relationship.

        But then there’s the question of who you are keeping a secret from. If a heterosexual couple adopts a child then generally a lot of people–close friends and family know, because the woman wasn’t pregnant. It’s different if you use third-party gametes, of course. In any event, I do think you might have a right to keep this “secret” from people like the soccer coach or the school district. Those are the sorts of institutions in the US who demand birth certificates. I don’t think you need to tell your neighbors or the people you meet in the grocery store–surely we agree on that? But I do think you should tell your child.

        In any event, most of this is beside the point. This is about fairness–why do we treat some adoptive parents different from other adoptive parents. You may want to change how all adoptive parents are treated–I get that–but this is not the issue in Texas right now.

  2. Further info: the section of the Texas Health and Safety Code that requires adopted children to have listed as their parents “only one male who is the father and one female who is the mother” came about only 15 or so years ago, when two moms sought to have their names put on their child’s birth certificate. Prior to that, no such limitation existed for adopted children. In other words, this was a part of the law enacted only to limit the birth certificate of the child of two dads or two moms.
    There are several children out there with neither parent on their Texas birth certificate. Any child who was legally adopted jointly by a same-sex married couple from another jurisdiction (of which there are now nine?) cannot have either parent on the birth certificate. This comes from the Bureau of Vital Statistics’ refusal to “pick one” parent from the Certificate of Adoption, and BVS’ insistence that the court re-issue a different Certificate reciting only one parent. That, of course, would falsify the court proceeding.

    • So if a same-sex couple legally adopts as a child born in Texas (completing the adoption in some other state) they cannot get a birth certificate with one parent’s name on it because in fact there are two legal parents and They cannot list two because they aren’t one male/one female? Wow.

  3. It’s shameful how these states are behaving because in the end they are not harming the parents by refusing to issue a “revised” birth certificate simply because the child has two legal parents of the same gender. These states are really harming the children, placing them at a disadvantage simply because of their legal parentage. It’s disgraceful behavior by the politicians and why anyone would elect a politician who knowingly supports harming children is a mystery to me.

    Either issue a revised birth certificate to any legal parents or don’t issue revised birth certificates to anyone.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. Don’t issue these falsified certificates to any person its wretched to issue fakes of real documents. It serves the egos of the adopters not their little adoptling.

      • organizedlibrarian

        Right. Because everyone who adopts has a massive ego, whereas every biological parent is a fountain of benevolence and selflessness.

        Your penchant for hyperbole makes your claims seem irrational. Why don’t you try toning it down?

      • Marilyn – Your suggestion doesn’t solve the problem at hand. Birth certificates have been issued so this couple should get one. Plain and simple.

        Your suggestion would only apply to any adoptions completed in the future. However, I would counter that biological parents should not receive a birth certificate, either. Because if they do then adopted children will be singled out as not having the identical legal paperwork to document their birth which unfairly discriminates against adopted children.

        We need to eliminate ALL birth certificates and simply issue a certificate of legal parentage.

        • Tyson
          cool issue certificates of legal parentage but that does not tell us HOW the child landed with those two particular people as their legal parents. The ethics of that matters. Did they buy them or obtain them in a game of 7 card no peek? Documenting a person as the offspring of their genetic parents is critical because it is your true and actual identity the one that is critical for medical purposes the one that is critical if your trying to decide who not to date because you really are someone’s niece or cousin and then you’ll be playing that roll to someone else but it won’t actually be true in fact only in theory.

          • I know we’ve travelled this road before–birth certificates are routinely used in this country as proof of legal parentage. All the time, everywhere. You don’t like it and I might agree it could be changed and maybe that would be good. But they are used that way.

            You’ve acknowledged that differential treatment can be unfair in the past. Don’t you see it here? Adoptive couple 1 gets a new birth certificate, adoptive couple 2 doesn’t. The difference between the two couples is the sex of the parents.

            • Absolutely and as things stand yes the same sex couple is being treated unfairly when compared to other adoptive parents and hands down they win that battle there is just no way to let one do it and the other not and call it fair. As I’ve said all along though, adopted children are treated unfairly copared to children who are not adopted in that their identities are altered not to serve them but to serve those that adopt them and therefore the practice should be stopped entirely to make things fair for adopted people and then there will be no difference between how one type of adopted parent was treated compared to another type of adopted parent because neither one of them should have their name on a document as parent when the implication is that it is the same inforation the government retained for vital statistical purposes or the same information they used as the basis for medical research on heritable disease. So its not fair for any adoptive parents name to be on there and that is what needs to change. Until then of course equal opportunity to rob a person of their identity yes have at it.

        • How does telling the truth discriminate against them? Fear of what other people will think or do is a bad reason not to record the truth Tyson

          • You’re framing the question so that you get the answer you want. Telling the truth is a wonderful thing, but the truth birth certificates tell is not the truth of who your genetic parents are. No one thinks they currently do that although some people–maybe even many people–think they should do that. IF there were a certificate that was meant to tell the truth of genetic parentage then adoptive parents asking for a new certificate that listed them would be asking for a lie. And denying adopted kids a new certificate would be fair–they aren’t entitled to one.

            But the truth reflected by being listed on a birth certificate is that you are the legal parent of the child. And here it would be unfair to list the legal parents of some children but not the legal parents of other children.

            I think it is really important to distinguish how things might work in a world that used certificates to establish genetic parentage and the way things work in the world we do live. You keep wanting to focus on the other–which is fine–so long as it is clear that you are shifting frames. Putting adoptive parents on a birth certificate does tell the truth IF you say that what a birth certificate show is legal parentage–and that is what we tend to use them for.

            • Julie that is the biggest load of who-ha and we have been over this a thousand times now. The state and federal government expect the person on the certificate to be the offspring of the parents on the certificate because its a medical record and if they are not those people’s offspring then there is no point in collecting that data and studying infant mortality or heridetary disease or birth defects. Come on they rely upon the genetic accuracy of the parents named on the original certificate which is why they don’t bother collecting the fake certificates. They don’t use those for vital statistical purposes. They don’t use that information for medical research because is useless. Its horrible that the feds allow states to revise the records of people that have already been recorded. The ammended certificate should say ammended to reflect the names of the adoptive parents.
              There is no law that allows for adopted people or their adoptive parents to be discriminated against based on the truth of how they came to have control over the child. There is no reason why the origin of their brand of parenthood should be any more private than my brand of parenthood. Mine is worse because it tells the world my private business, I reproduced and probably had sex to it. Far more invasive and personal than if I went to court and a judge approved my application. Substantiating a need for secrecy based on fear of what exactly? Is there an underground faction of the Klan that hates adopted people or something? What is wrong with telling the truth why should adoption be a more private way to get a kid than just making one? I’ve never met an adopted person who was proud and happy to have a certificate naming their adoptive parents on it. Or a stepped on person that was proud and happy to have their stepfather or stepmother named on their birth record as their parent. The only one I ever heard say they were happy about it was the adult adopted person who I thought was just doing it to clear her credit rating. The idea that adopted people are being treated unfairly because they can’t have a certificate with both their adoptive parents or their gamete buying parents on it is just comical

        • agree with Marilyn regarding the need for transparency. But also Tyson- a “legal parent” certificate- legal parents of who??? the kid needs to be identified and how do you expect to do that without documenting the facts of the birth?
          Furthermore, you say that only legal parents should be recorded in order to avoid discriminating against adoptees. Actually your plan is what discriminates against adoptees- since for most people the bio parents ARE the legal parents, adoptess are the only ones who don’t get access to their biological hertiage. you know there is a whole movement to remedy that don’t you? how can you suggest this in the name of equality?
          Legal parents should be on the public form but all the historical information should continue to be maintained by the state with the difference being that it is accessible to the person whom its about.

          • And it should be and is accessable accessible to others the info pertains to. If I am someone’s sister I need to know who that person is. That is my relationship not my parent’s to govern. How am I suppose to avoid dating them or share medical information or send them a damn Christmas card if I don’t even know who they are? I’m allowed to obtain the birth marriage and death certificates of my relatives if their parent is the same as my parent or if their grandparent is the same as my grandparent or their parent is my grandparent or whatever. Vice versa of course but it only works when the truth is recorded. Otherwise this grand access to records we have the right to is medically useless.

        • No sir. The truth is the truth and writing it down is not discriminitory.

  4. I don’t see why some state like Massachusetts doesn’t offer them a falsified birth certificate. There could be a web form people fill out with names and dates, pay $200, and get a new birth certificate mailed to them.

    How does anyone connect a child to their birth certificate anyway? It’s the kind of thing that a DNA test can do with close to 100% accuracy, but if there is no expectation that the people on the birth certificate are the parents, how do they know the kid is the same kid?

    • by faith in succession… eventually when the kid grows he can use other forms of ID but at one point in order to get those forms he’ll have had to present the birth certiificate

    • You could reorganize things so that different states could issue new birth certificates–or some sort of certificate–I think. It just happens that over a couple of centuries we have evolved these set of practices. If a child is born in state X only state X can issue a birth certificate for that child. If the child is adopted in state Y, then (generally) the court order finalizing the adoption in state Y is a basis on which state X will issue a new birth certificate. Except Texas won’t do it in a few cases.

      My point here is not that that this couldn’t all be changed. It’s not even that it shouldn’t be changed. It is that as things stand, it’s unfair.

      • Can’t argue with that. Hope you see that I am not so bound to biology that I’m unwilling to aquessce that unless the rules are changed for everyone and they should be, we must allow equal access to this absurd practice. So twisted but its only fair.

  5. I posted a while back about a birth certificate issue in Ohio, which does not recognize second-parent adoption, and you asked for an update when the process was complete. My son was born in Ohio (anonymous donor). I was the only parent listed on the birth certificate. When he was a year old, we moved to another state. After residing in the new state for six months, we were able to complete a second parent adoption. It was clear from the paperwork that we were a married same-sex couple. When we sent the decree to Ohio to get an updated birth certificate, they sent us an amended birth certificate listing my partner’s name under “father”. When we requested that a new birth certificate be issued, the very sympathetic clerk informed us that there is no way to reflect a second parent adoption granted in another state and that they really shouldn’t be issuing a new certificate. Even though we have mixed feelings about this – she is clearly not his father – at this point it is more important to us to have her name on the birth certificate at all and so we have not pushed the issue.

    • “she is clearly not his father….”
      Pretty clearly not his mother either. What were you hoping they’d call your spouse?
      Don’t get all worked up about it being wrong from your point of view think about how wrong it will be from your son’s point of view. Think about how wrong it is from the CDC’s point of view.
      Remember that if it does not work out between you and her you will have saddled your kid with a parent that is not even related to them. Makes no difference that your a same sex couple. Women have been doing this for years naming their spouses as the father of their children when really it is someone else entirely and it ruins people’s lives. I’ve seen so many falsified certificates like that. Did you know if your child ever is lucky enough to find his siblings the fact that the wrong person is named on his certificate ensures that they will never be legally recognized as siblings? Never qualify for any of the benefits that siblings can receive, no family medical act leave no time off work to attend a funeral no helping a sibling immigrate to the united states, no ability to obtain one another’s birth marriage or death records, no qualifying as a relative dependent should they wind up taking care of a sibling in or niece or nephew in their older years. They are permanently chained to a step family that is of no medical importance all to serve the Mother’s desire to play out the fantasy that she had a child with someone she’s in love with. Her relationship is so much more important than her child’s relationships or their medical records or their true identity. Her marriage is what is of paramount importance. In fact, if she were not able to pretend that it was her spouses child she would not want to bother keeping her own bio child. If she had to admit the child was not her spouse’s then she would not feel compelled to raise her child at all. The child is only worthy of her love if she can tell everyone that it is their child together. The child has to forsake half of all their relatives and pretend to be the spouse’s child in order to be loved by the mother or her spouse. The other bio parent does not want the child because the mother is not his spouse.

      They are so disposable those non marital children. Only keepable when we can pretend they were created by married couples.

      • I have a different perspective since I’m single and intend to stay single and therefore it’s unlikely my future child will ever have a “social” father, but the love I believe I will have for that child will having nothing to do with what the second spot on the birth certificate says or doesn’t say, but because (s)he will be MY CHILD. Yes, I do believe that my future child’s best interests are served having one stable home with one parent that has sole custody from the start if (s)he can’t be born to parents living together in a relationship. I will not see my infant child subjected to some of the custody arrangements I’ve seen inflicted on children under a year – including one where the child was forced to travel 2000 miles every 3 months back and forth because neither parent could agree where to live. You may disagree, but ultimately under the law it’s my call to make as the sole legal parent. As far as I’m concerned, the only person who will ever have a right to question that choice is the child, and I will take full responsibility if that happens.

        • Right I don’t think you have a different perspective at all. What you just said is that you would not entertain any sort of shared custody arrangement with your child’s father. You want to be regarded as the only parent and your family be the child’s only social family. You would not go forward with having a child by a donor if you knew that he would be named as father and held responsible for half the child’s care and support like any other father. You would not go through with having this child with a donor if you knew the child might have to split holidays with their father and his family. So this child would not be worthy of your love, your attention unless forsakes half his family and lives as if he was the offspring of only one individual- you. The non marital child is frequently subjected to identity altering in order for at least one bio parent to find them worthy of raising. They have to pretend they are the child of only one of their parents and then sometimes pretend to be the child of the person that rearing parent is shacking up with when they are born. They cannot just be themselves, child of both people that put them on earth, both their responsibility to raise and have them cooperate in that effort out of love and respect for the person that they made together whether they love one another or not is besides the point. They made a person that is half of each of them

          • No, I would not have a child with someone who had not signed away their parental rights – but not because I wouldn’t love the child, but rather because I would love the child too much to see them subjected to something I believe would not in any way be in their best interests. I would not purposely conceive a child into a situation I believe to be unstable and bad for a child. Most people wouldn’t either. I believe if the biological parents are definitely not going to be together and know that BEFORE conception, that arrangements in which one parent will raise a child alone are acceptable, and to me, preferable (as long as the child will at some point know who the donor is – I am not a fan of fully anonymous donors and feel all donors should have to be identity release donors). My child will know that there is a biological father out there, that the biological father chose to have his information and how to contact him made available at age 18 to all of his biological children who desire it, and that she is free to pursue or not pursue that and I would help either way. I also plan to use the donor sibling registry so that my child can learn about and meet half-siblings. It has nothing to do with hiding the paternal biological family so that the child will never know about them – indeed, I would happily use a known from the start donor if the law in my state would enforce an agreement about the donor/biological father’s role, but in my state that option is only available to couples. I am simply doing what I believe is best for a child born to a person like me – and legally, that’s my call to make.

            • definitely correct, when there is another parent in the picture, each parent loses some control over the situation. that doesn’t mean it’s a terrible arrangement for the kid.

              Actually its could be more dififcult arrangement for the parents, if they are both mature enough cuz they are going to end up compromising more of their OWN wishes for their kids’s sake.

              • (but in reality how much of life do we control anyway?)

                • Well when the parents don’t agree that leaves it up to the courts and I’ve seen some decisions come out of the courts that I consider truly awful for the child and not just the parents. Like a court trying to do 50/50 custody for an infant with parents that live nowhere near each other – now the kid spends 3 months with one parent, gets to fly 2000 miles, spends 3 months with the other parent and NO time with the previous parent, rinse and repeat. I believe this particular case got appealed to a state supreme court and I’ll be interested to see what comes of it.

                  • And 20 years from now if you ask that kid if they’d rather have never had an opportunity to be around one of their parents or that parent’s family…..what do you think they will say. Or ask them in retrospect if you had to not know one of your two parents and their family which would it be? Or ask them if they’d rather not have had braces or a college fund.

                  • By the time the kid is old enough to remember anything, the courts will be forced to change the schedule as it will not work for a school age child. But in the meantime everything about this less than 2 year old baby’s life is completely disrupted every 3 months. Every switchover, the child severely regresses. The parents then fight over whether to do feeding therapy etc to help with the regressions. It’s not a good situation. One of the parents suggested well maybe I can move near you we can do normal 50/50. The other parent said that won’t work I plan to move again really soon. Yikes. I suppose whether the kid wishes for something else as an adult depends on whether the parents manage to work it out or the courts find a better solution.

            • You are a thoughtful person Rebecca and I enjoy reading what you write and stand to learn something from you. My goal was to try and educate myself as to what people were and were not thinking about when they embarked on having a baby with a donor. I wanted to know if they just did not care about the losses their child would experience or if it just never occurred to them.

              So I have a few more questions for you if you are willing to answer them. Are you aware that your child will never know who all of their siblings are because not all of their mother’s will be posting to the DSR? Are you aware that it is very very difficult to make a match on the DSR for most people? Are you aware that since the advent of freezing cryobanks will not accept a donor unless they are guaranteed to make their investment back by him making a certain number of offspring within a certain time limit? The bottom number is 100 offspring just to cover their administrative costs. True some of the offspring may remain frozen for some time or may never be gestated at all but you are looking at probably 100-150 in your metro area around the same age as your own child and you’ll be lucky if he knows who a hand full of them are. He will never have the information he needs in order to avoid incestuous contact and neither will his siblings or all of his other relatives and this will go on for generations. If the donor has siblings they will be your child’s full aunts and uncles and their children will be your child’s full cousins. These are people likely living in the same area as your child and they are not people your child will want to reproduce with or date. They should have the choice of avoiding dating them if possible but they won’t. They won’t be able to share medical information. The entire family is in a compromised position where the donor has robbed them of their right to information about their realtionships; from his offspring to his cousins to his nieces and nephews – he as taken information that rightly belongs to all of them and concealed it. Even he won’t know who his offspring are. You won’t be able to be sure he is not a relative of yours before you reproduce with him either.

              Also why don’t you think your child would deserve both parent’s efforts when other children’s fathers are obligated to help raise them and support them? How do you think they will view you for not wanting their father to be involved in their life? How do you think they will view him for making them and walking away from them when he might be raising some of his other offspring? What makes those kids matter to him more than they do?

              You said you “believe if the biological parents are definitely not going to be together and know that BEFORE conception, that arrangements in which one parent will raise a child alone are acceptable,”

              So to you, as I was saying, being a parent is not about the relationship one has to the child but rather the relationship one has with the other parent. So if the person is not your spouse and you’re not in love with them they are of no use to your child. The child only needs their physical and financial support if they are married to one another. If they are not married to one another then only one parent should have that financial and physical responsibility.

              Would you be willing to say that should be the case for all people so that everyone has the same rights at birth so that all men are created equal with equal legal protection? Everyone have the same rights as your child which would mean the end of paternity suits as we know them for children of unmarried parents? If they are not going to be a romantically connected couple then the child needs only one parents care and support. Fathers should only care about the children they create with their spouses. Your child should be of no concern to him because you are not his spouse. He does not love you and therefore your child is not worthy of his love or his attention.

              You will have to explain why one of your child’s bio parents wanted them so badly and the other one was willing to give them up for what amounts to enough money for dinner and a movie. You will have to explain why, if he wanted to help nice ladies have babies, he would not also want to help them raise those babies. Why would he make a bunch of children and not want to raise them? What did they do wrong?

              Just be prepared because the questions they won’t ask are far more difficult to answer than the ones I just asked you.

              • Well the sperm is coming from an out of state bank, so there’s no particular reason to think that most of the children from the specific donor would live in my particular area – I imagine they are all around the country.

                Every child has a right to support from their LEGAL parents. Obviously what we disagree on there is who should be a LEGAL parent and under what circumstances they should be allowed to give that up. My personal belief is that all biological parents should be legal parents by default, but that a sperm donor agreement is an acceptable way to relinquish rights. So yes, my child will have the same right as every other child which is to supported by his/her legal parent(s) – which in this case, would be just me. In cases of unknown fathers who haven’t been legally indentified, the state doesn’t attempt to find the father and force him to support the child unless the mother asks for it or the mother receives government assistance.

                I would also say the fact that the donor has chosen to make himself available for contact with his adult biological children shows that he doesn’t completely disregard them in his thoughts, and would be interested in meeting them someday. From the donor profiles I’ve looked at, money does not appear to be a primary motivating factor in these donations – most have jobs that would pay far more.

                It’s sort of hard to answer questions when we have a completely different definition of what makes a parent. Most of my answers would mean nothing to you because I don’t see a donor as being a parent anymore if it was a willing donation, and you do. I feel at time of donation if properly consented too all responsibilities and rights are rightly passed on to the recipients; you disagree.

                • No every child has a right to support from their biological father look it up in the UPA. If you reproduced with a regular guy and wanted to keep the kid all to yourself and cut a private little deal with him offline and you suddenly found yourself destitute or needing state medical insurance for your child and they said why is the father not supporting this child and you said I don’t know who he is they’d try real hard to get you to remember. If you caved they’d hunt him down test him and then put his name on the birth record and order him to support his child not just from that day forward but in arrears because he always wias the father and was always resposnsible for his child he just was an unknown person there for a while. He would owe back child support.

                  • However, if the mother is entirely supporting the child without any help from the government, no one will do a thing. She won’t be forced to put a name on the birth certificate. She won’t be bugged by the government for possible father names. Indeed, you could assume that the government only goes after fathers when the mother is on state assistance to save money.

                  • But the child has the right the mother is just thwarting receipt of what they are due. Why would she do that?

                  • Well I would guess there are a few reasons, some of which the mother could be to blame for and some for which she would not. Obviously the situation in which the mother is entirely at fault would be if she is doing out of spite – she’s mad at the father and never told him about the kid. Of course there are several other possibilities – the mother could have personally witnessed very dangerous behavior from the father that puts the child at risk, but doesn’t know if she can offer enough proof; the father could have made it clear he absolutely does not want to be involved and she fears he will cause trouble if tracked down; or she could just genuinely not know where he is through no fault of her own.

              • And I also tend to think life can be a tradeoff of losses. No one is born in a perfect situation, really. A child with two parents may gain more relatives, but be exposed to be conflict and stability. He/she may be at the mercy of the courts if the parents flat out can’t agree, but will probably have more financial support available. A child who is guaranteed to stay in the custody of one parent in one home may lose relatives, but gain stability and experience less family conflict. I won’t say that I am having a child in a way that would be best for everyone, but I don’t think it’s a way that’s guaranteed to produce a bad outcome or result in a resentful child. I know adults raised by a single parent who are content. I know kids whose parents fought so much they probably wish at times they had only had one parent because it consumed their childhood. I knew one person who didn’t even want to talk to one parent as an adult because their insistence on shared custody and refusal to give up ANY parenting time in high school resulted in an extreme disruption of their schooling. Really I think both ways are acceptable ways to raise kids and the outcome depends more on the people involved and how they act; than anything else.

                • That’s right when you are talking about something they have no real right to like being rich or poor having capable parents or incapable parents. But we are talking about basic essential rights to their own information and their own relatives. Nobody not even their mother should have the right to to manipulate their reality that way. Their information does not belong to the parent it belongs to them. They don’t belong to the parent they are just their parent’s responsibility to take care of.

                  If you were meeting someone for a business meeting and you’d never met them before would you decide to be late because you had no idea how they might feel about that or would you decide to be on time because they just might mind having their time wasted? Your not just expending your resources when you make this decision, you’re expending theirs and a whole lot of other people’s as well. Be mindful of that. You can take the long shot bet that it won’t bother them but you’re involved your not just any old single parent here. Your creating a situation that will keep them in the dark and its dangerous. Take full responsibility for that and be prepared for them to be mad about it. It’s not fair in a whole different way than being poor – you wanted it this way for yourself to meet your own needs. This is not abject poverty that you have no control over or an addiction that you are at the mercy of this is a calculated move to separate them from half their family and you’ll need to explain why that was to their benefit. How was this good for them how were their best interests at the forefront of this decision making process?

                  • I already explained why I feel it is the best interests of the child. You and I disagree on what is in the best interests of the child and it’s highly unlikely we can every reconcile that.

                  • I don’t thinl we can determine the best interest of the kid before ot even exists! we take ourbest gamble, that’s life.

          • So in other words, would I purposely conceive a child into what I believe is a harmful and unstable situation? Hell no. Just no. And while I know we will never agree on what is a harmful situation is, I would think that most people, if asked, would probably say that if they KNEW, for sure, that the situation their child would be born into would be one they believed would be bad for their child, that they would probably not purposely have a child either. I’m sure it bothers you that I don’t find my choice harmful while you do, but nothing will change that for either of us. Saying I wouldn’t genuinely love the child if I’m refusing to bring a child into a bad situation would be like me telling you that if you aren’t willing to go use a sperm donor you wouldn’t be willing to love and want any resulting child.

            But if something came up after the birth of the child, that could not be predicted, would I just say “Forget it, I don’t want him/her anymore, just take them and save me the time and money in court”? Hell no. I would still love my child and fight with everything I had for what I believed was best for them. And I believe that is, again, what most people would do.

            • Good then you are thinking about it anyway. I’m really not even getting into psychological harm or stress I’m just talking about basic medical information and loss of contact with relatives. Concrete definite losses. The rest is speculation. I’m asking if you are aware of those concrete losses and challenging the idea that it is any parent’s place to put their child in that position.

              If the answer is that you would not be able to have a child if you did not do it this way, just know that being told they had to lose a bunch of relatives and rights or they would not exist is really rough because that is telling them that they were born not deserving equal treatment. Like we had to cut your leg off to save your life. Well no they could be born and the law could say or you could say or their father could say, no these kids deserve better they deserve everything everyone else has a right to and we are not going to subject them or their relatives to a life lived blindfolded. They could do that would not kill anyone to have their father help support them really I’m just saying there is an alternative to non existence. Its not this is the way it is or you don’t exist.

      • The arguments that you make here are so outlandish they don’t even merit a response. For the record, however, I was hoping that they’d call her what she is legally recognized to be – his PARENT.

        • Yeah, it’s going pretty far. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a genetic mother when a sperm donor was used, or genetic father when an egg donor was used, giving up the child for adoption or signing away all rights if attempts to have the spouse or partner recognized as a legal parent failed.

          • you can’t make a general rule. I would say these are all non-ideal ways of bringing a person into the world (then again so is poverty…). I don’t think there is any categorical rule as to what will turn out better than the other way. There are too many variables out of our control.
            In my case I do have friends with various levels of abandonment by their fathers, in one case at a very early age. They all turned into well adjusted adults, i’d say more than me who was raised by two still- married biological parents. But despite this, none of them thought they would have been better off not knowing who he was.

          • That is because the attempts don’t fail, the law is set up to allow people to play games with the identities of non marital children. Play games to better suit the adults and craft a more palatable reality for themselves and the child as they would like them to appear to be rather than as who they actually are.

            If your mother does not like who your father is so much that she won’t name him as your father on your birth certificate or allow you to see or know him then everything about you that is like him is irrelevant and disposable to her. If your mother wanted you to be some other person’s child then everything about you that is like your father has to be suppressed and and concealed and forgotten about in order for your mother and the person she wishes was your other parent to keep and raise you.

            I swear it really teaches them that children only matter to people if they can have them with people they love. People will keep the non marital child if they can erase the evidence of the unloved other parent.

            • Actually there have been failed attempts at such things, where the biological parent is the only one of the couple left with legal rights to the child. It can vary based on state law and the type of situation (donor egg or sperm, surrogate, adoption, was the couple married, what were their genders, etc).

            • I could Google further but these were some of the cases I remembered:

              Gay couple wanted child. Planned to use the sperm of one man, and the egg of the second man’s sister, who would be a very special aunt who lived with them (she was single and hadn’t had any kids). The woman’s eggs turned out to be non viable so the egg ended up being from a different woman who I believe was anonymous. The arrangement broke down after the birth of twins, and both the couple and the gestational mother decided they wanted to be the legal parent(s). The gay couple wanted to be recognized as the two legal parents and have sole custody. The woman wanted to be the legal mother, and have sole legal custody (I don’t think she tried to terminate the bio father’s relationship, just argue the kids would be better off living with her). Neither really got what they wanted. The bio father was deemed the legal father. The gestational surrogate was deemed the legal mother. The partner got no legal rights. The bio father and the gestational mother had to share legal custody, with the kids going to school with the father, apparently because his partner’s sister who gave birth to the kids lived with her mother now who constantly ranted and raved against gay people and the gestational mother had joined her church or something like that. I pity the kids for the fact that two people who will never agree on anything are sharing custody. Regardless, the bio father did not try to give up the kids upon learning his partner could never be the legal dad, and in fact spent a ton of money trying to get primary custody for himself even after the court declared the partner a non-parent and appears to have accepted the current situation, from what I can tell from news articles at least.

              Anyway… on to the next which was a straight married couple who also had the situation of using the man’s sperm, an anonymous egg, and a gestational surrogate. They wanted the wife declared the legal mother. The surrogate had no interest in the kid. The court ruling appears to have left the kid with a legal father and no legal mother. Wife was told she could try to adopt the kid but would never be on the original birth record (Might be a state that allows them to be requested? Not sure). As far as I know neither the father or his wife tried to give up the kid.

              There was also another weird one with triplets and an unmarried male/female couple who used egg donor/gestational surrogate but I can’t remember all the details. The father ended up dying when the kids were really young and I’m not sure what happened at that point because neither his girlfriend nor the gestational surrogate were ever declared the legal mother.

              I’m sure I could find a bunch more if need be but none of these people said screw it, don’t want the kid even though it became apparent that what they wanted and planned wasn’t going to happen very soon after the kid was born.

              • Actually Rebecca I don’t believe that bio parents would give up their child if they had to cooperate nor do I think their spouses would abandon them and their step child. I believe that people would get over themselves and take care of their kids as they are suppose to without much difficulty. But they are so caught up in thinking that they cannot work together, that the other parent must be their spouse that they are destroying these kid’s families rather than try.

                If they were not allowed to get off the hook and had to raise their kids there would still be arrangements made where people would donate but they’d just have to also be willing to take full responsibility for their kids. And that is not a bad thing.

        • For the record, why don’t you try to respond to those arguments and explain why they have no merit. And for the record I am very much in favor of same sex marriage and see nothing wrong with a child being raised by their mother and her partner or spouse of either gender. But the child deserves both parents doing their best on both sides; its not fair that the law lets fathers abandon their children as a service for women who want to raise them alone or with people they wish they could have had children with.

          • I’m happy to respond. At the outset, I’ll say that I found your comments incredibly insulting, even though I’m sure you did not intend them to be. You don’t know anything about me, my partner, our donor, or our child, and I cannot imagine how providing a relevant update on the status of my child’s birth certificate would cause you to accuse me of forcing my child to forsake his true identity to ‘play out the fantasy that [I] had a child with someone [I] am in love with” and to opine that I would not want to keep my biological child if I were forced to admit that he was not also my spouse’s child.

            You seem to be confusing the intentionally created, highly wanted children of same sex parents with some category of “non-marital” children from whom biological origins have been concealed. My son is neither “non-marital” nor disposable, regardless of whose names are on his birth certificate. My partner and I have been legally married for more than ten years and we spent $30,000 creating our son together (with the assistance of donor sperm from a sperm bank) and another $10,000 securing the adoption that would allow her to be recognized as his legal parent. Nothing about our child’s conception will be concealed from him, and he is not being asked to forsake any part of his identity to be accepted by me, my partner, or my partner’s family. Although we don’t view his donor as his ‘father’ or the other children conceived from this donor as his ‘siblings’, we will be more than supportive if he chooses to seek out relationships with these individuals when he is an adult. He also has full access to his donor’s medical history. I can’t speak for all same-sex families, but my family has been built on honesty, transparency, and love.

            Now let me address the legal rights you claim my son is forfeiting relative to his ‘siblings’ by us placing my partner’s name on his birth certificate – FMLA and bereavement leave, the ability to request birth, marriage and death certificates, and recognition as a legal dependent. I’m not an expert in family law, but I have practiced labor and employment law for my entire legal career and I question your conclusions. The FMLA recognizes biological, legal and non-legal relationships, including step-parents, foster parents, and adults who act in loco parentis (in place of a parent). Furthermore, employers are not required to rely on birth certificates to confirm a family relationship, but can rely on any type of ‘reasonable documentation’ – including an affidavit from the employee. The same would be true of bereavement leave, dependent benefits, etc.

            You did, however, unintentionally hit on the reasons we would want to name my partner on our child’s birth certificate. Without this legal recognition, he would have more difficulty accessing the rights and benefits to which he his entitled as her child – Social Security, VA benefits, health insurance. Without her name on his birth certificate, she may be challenged if she tries to register him for school or seek medical treatment for him. Since she is a stay-at-home parent and his primary caretaker, this is obviously not a risk we can assume.

            Finally, many states have updated their birth certificates to read “Parent 1” and “Parent 2”. So it would not be totally out of the question for me to believe that she should be identified as his parent.

            • $30K to achieve a pregnancy with donor sperm? It typically takes 5 or 6 vials to achieve a pregnancy at $500 a vial that’s maybe $3 K for the semen. Unless you are including the cost of your delivery and medical care while pregnant $30K sounds awefully hight for donor insemination. I had friends who swapped eggs and pregnancies and used the same donor. They were named as mother on the opposite birth certificate of their actual children I guess they thought it would make them more connected to the other one’s child because they’d given birth. When they broke up they each took their own kid, contrary to the birth certificates that named them as mother. Now they are back together so for the moment it does not matter. Luckily they were really adult about the whole thing in the break up or they could have lost their respective children. There was a story about another woman here in SF who was the mother of the child that her partner gave birth to and her partner took off with her kid claiming she was the mother because she gave birth. She did not go through the process of a step parent adoption as your partner did and it almost cost her her child. Its incredibly demeaning to think that a person would be made to adopt their own child or that they would not be named as mother on the certificate of their offspring when clearly they are the only person who is medically relevant to the child and the only person whose history is pertinent to any of the research on heritable disease that is done with the information the CDC collects. If your partner is the mother of the child your raising then I think it is terribly wrong that her name is not on the birth record because then its pretty much worthless as a medical record for vital statistics purposes.

  6. “$30,000 creating our son together (with the assistance of donor sperm from a sperm bank) and another $10,000 securing the adoption that would allow her to be recognized as his legal parent.”

    I respect many of the reasons you mentioned but not this. money does not and should never have any bearing on parenthood.

  7. PS you can’t create a child with money, only commission someone to create it. Money aint one of the building blocks of a person.

    • since you completed a legal adoption and thus there are no questions regarding your partner’s parenthood, I wonder what you gain by not using accurage language.
      Your partner did not create the child, she adopted him. Why insist on describing it as “create?”
      Do you feel something lacking, if in fact you and she did not biologically create the child? is biological conception that important?

  8. Actually, biological conception was completely unimportant to us. We started out trying to become foster/adoptive parents but could not get a placement because we refused to lie about our sexual orientation in our home study, so ultimately we turned to ART. I used the word ‘create’ because my partner was fully present and involved in the conception process – she and I selected the donor together, used our joint funds to finance the fertility treatments, she held my hand through egg retrieval, watched the embryologist fertilize the egg, and gave me the shots every night for 12 weeks after the transfer. She attended every ob appointment and cut his umbilical cord at the birth. Although our child is not genetically related to her, I do view him as our shared creation, one that was born from much love and many challenges. The monetary cost of his conception is important only to the extent that it illustrates the fact that he has never been ‘disposable’ as Marilyn suggested – no one would invest the kind of resources we did into bringing a child into the world who was not fully wanted.

    • ironically, the word “create” could more accurately be used regarding the doctor performing the procedure (who actually put the parts together), than the person who watched it. Nurses also give thousands of shot. Hell, I’ve even given some fertility shots myself. No one ever credited me with creating their child. I’ve also held many a hand in my life too.

      The idea that you and your partner “created” the child with the “help” of donor sperm is really the other way around. She helped you create the child with the donor sperm. And not to downgrade her help- she sure helped you in a big way, in a way you couldn’t have done without. but every single cell in your kids body grew out of a single cell from yourself and that man.

      Sometimes we might want to credit someone whose help was so enormous- as a party to the act itself. that’s very nice as a metaphor. but when compared to your attitude to the donor sperm, I see you intend it very literally.

      Why am I harping about this? Because its important to be accurate and upfront about what we are doing to avoid being misleading and misunderstanding. Too many of these practices rest on whitewashing and obfuscating the issue with euphemism.

  9. PS I do not suggest your son is disposable to you in anyway. But by including a dollars and cents value you make him sound very disposable indeed, if the price is right. I know thats not what you meant but to me thats how it comes off. (btw you know it’s not unheard of for commissioning couples to walk away even after spending tons of money, right?)

  10. Thanks Julie for writing about our family. We appreciate all efforts to shine a light on this unequal practice denying some children a supplemental birth certificate that lists both of their legal parents. And just to be clear to some who posted comments above, the birth certificate is for our son, not for us. He also has his original birth certificate listing his biological parents as well as his original name. But as you can imagine, that document does little good when registering him for school, applying for a passport, or when called upon to quickly and easily prove who his legal parents are. Yes, we can tote around numerous other documents that when all assembled, legally prove who he is and who his legal parents are. But for someone without a law degree, it can be difficult to translate and interpret. A birth certificate is our society’s standard when proving who your parents are and it is something almost everyone understands. Its a matter of fair and equal treatment under the law for our son. That is why we are advocating for a change. Would any other parent do less if their child were being treated unfairly? Thanks again. Andy

    • I think you’ve really added a slightly different and really helpful way to doing things. The real problem lies in the reliance of schools and passport offices and all those other places on birth certificates as proof of legal parentage. it’s easy to imagine a different system–one where all legal parents had a certificate of legal parenthood and that was a different thing from a birth certificate. The latter would be a historical record (though it still isn’t clear whose names would be on it besides the woman who gave birth) while the former would be a present-tense legal document. I don’t think people would raise the same objections about new certificates of legal parentage being issued upon adoption.

      But that’s not what we do. We use birth certificates to prove legal parenthood. I do think there are reasons why it has ended up this way, but I won’t discuss them at length here. The thing is, since we do use birth certificates that way, and so an adopted child needs his/her new legal parents to be able to produce that document.

      Good luck with the law change. No matter what one thinks about the whole birth certificate question, I can really see no justification for agreeing to change some but not others.

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