This is hardly a blog post. More like a pointer: Look over there. Today’s New York Times has an extensive article about same-sex couples, marriage and parentage. It showed up in the business section and the title pretty much says it all: “Same-sex Parents’ Rights May Be Unresolved After Justices’ Ruling.” It’s pretty much discussion you will have read here, but it is all rather nicely laid out. Something to add to your “to read” list if you’re interested in the topic.
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
There’s a new opinion from Texas that serves as a bit of a cautionary tale. Marvin McMurray and his partner wanted to have children. A friend of Cindy Close agreed that she would become pregnant via IVF using embryos that were created from McMurray’s sperm and an egg from an unknown provider. Close gave birth to twins–twins she was not genetically related to.
I think what I’ve said so far is what everyone agrees about. But if that looks like an odd telling of the story, it’s because at the core of the story is a fundamental disagreement and so I haven’t recited it. Instead I’ll give you two versions–keeping in mind that I have NO IDEA what’s true here.
McMurray version: Close was a friend helping out McMurray and his partner by serving as a surrogate. She wasn’t going to be a parent to the children. (It says she would play “no role” but I assume this might mean “no special role” since if she’s a good friend she’d like be around some.).
Close version: McMurray was aware of Close’s desire to have children and they agreed to coparent. (This of course makes me wonder about why the third party egg, but there could be reasons for that.) 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
My thanks to TAO, who pointed me towards this story in a comment to the last post. I had written about the case two years ago, but would surely have missed this chance to follow up on it.
I’ll leave folks to go back and read either the earlier post (I just linked to it) or the article for the facts. They are rather long and complicated. But the short of it is that Robert Manzanares is the genetic father of a six-year old girl who has been living with a Utah couple her entire life. (The people raising her are actually the brother and sister-in-law of her genetic mother.)
Regular readers here will know that Utah is a state that is very hard on unmarried genetic fathers. As a matter of policy the state would much rather have children raised by married couples. Hence, it is easy for a woman to give birth and place a child for adoption in UT and it is hard for a man who is the genetic father of the child to stand claim a right to raise the child himself. 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
I’ve got a couple of recent posts up about the marital presumption. I thought I’d add another case–this one from Mississippi. It’s not a marital presumption case, as you can see. (If anyone can help me understand why it isn’t, I’d be grateful. Is it possible that MS no longer uses the presumption? Do tell if you know.) But the facts are similar to the recent CA case I wrote about and there is a presumption at work.
So here’s the story. Anne and Jake had an intimate relationship before the married. But during that time, apparently unbeknownst to Jake, Anne had a one-night stand with Tommie. Anne got pregnant. Tommie suspected the child might be his, but he knew about Jake, too. Jake didn’t know about Tommie and so assumed that he was the father of the child.
Anne and Jake got married in June 2004 when Anne was 17 weeks pregnant. Continue reading
As you will know from earlier posts, there is a very interesting trial proceeding in Michigan. It’s a challenge to laws that prohibit a same-sex couple from marrying and therefore from jointly adopting. The plaintiffs are a lesbian couple each of whom has adopted children out of foster care. Though they have been together for quite some time, the two women cannot adopt each other’s children. This puts the children at risk in various ways–the non-adoptive mother is not a legal parent of the child.
What’s really interesting is that the trial judge is hearing live testimony from a series of expert witnesses of various sorts. You can follow along via twitter coverage or blog coverage or the local (Detroit) paper. I’m sure there will be other coverage, too, but how much can one take in.
So what to think? Continue reading
I’m stepping out of discussions about the marital presumption for a moment to raise what is really a much broader issue. Generally the choices people make when advocating for any particular rule in family law (and in law generally, I would guess) are driven by some goal that they are trying to achieve.
For instance, in family law many people advocate for particular legal arrangments because they care about the well-being of children. Indeed, it is probably fair to say that the well-being of children is the single most broadly agreed upon goal of family law. There are other goals you an advance of course—interests of and/or fairness to adults, say. But the consideration of children—for a whole range of reasons–is often centrally placed in the debate.
Now the fact that many people agree on the centrality of the well-being of children does not mean that people agree on what family law should be. Continue reading
I have some hesitation about returning to the general topic of birth certificates as I know many people get quite wrought about it. But there’s a bunch of different stories out there on the topic so I’ll have a go on it. However, I want to try to set the stage first.
Birth certificates—at least in the US–are rather peculiar documents. Some of what is on them at least looks like a historical record. So for example, birth certificates routinely list the time of birth. That would seem to be in the nature of a historical record–a formal noting of a particular thing happening at a specific time and place. (Place is also in that category.)
But then there are some other things on birth certificates that, though they look like the stuff of historical records, aren’t. One–and the one that has been discussed the most extensively here–is “parents”–or as it sometimes appears “mother” and “father.” US birth certificates do not necessarily list the name of the woman who gave birth–which it seems to me would be the most obvious historical fact they might reflect. Continue reading