Monday, July 16, 2007

Three (or more) legal parents?

Elizabeth Marquardt, a vice president of the Institute for American Values, has an interesting op-ed piece.
On April 30, a state Superior Court panel ruled that a child can have three legal parents. The case, Jacob v. Shultz-Jacob, involved two lesbians who were the legal co-parents of two children conceived with sperm donated by a friend. The panel held that the sperm donor and both women were all liable for child support. Arthur S. Leonard, a professor at New York Law School, observed, “I’m unaware of any other state appellate court that has found that a child has, simultaneously, three adults who are financially obligated to the child’s support and are also entitled to visitation.”

The case follows a similar decision handed down by a provincial court in Ontario in January. In what appeared to be the first such ruling in any Western nation, the court ruled that a boy can legally have three parents. In that case the biological mother and father had parental rights and wished for the biological mother’s lesbian partner, who functions as the boy’s second mother, to have such rights as well.

The idea of assigning children three legal parents is not limited to North America. In 2005, expert commissions in Australia and New Zealand proposed that sperm or egg donors be allowed to “opt in” as a child’s third parent. That same year, scientists in Britain received state permission to create an embryo from the DNA of three adults, raising the real possibility that they all could be granted equal legal claims to the child if the embryo developed to term.
The Institute for American Values tends to be branded as a conservative organization, but I think they are a bit more nuanced than that. If multiple adults play parent-like roles in the life of a child, what should the state do about that? Why shouldn't they all have legal rights and responsibilities. I'm not sure.

1 comment:

Mistress Cesca said...

This was a very interesting post to me for many reasons.

I currently live in VT, where civil unions are legal. However there have been some interesting custody cases when these matches do not work, noteably one with a former lesbian/birth mother who subsequently found Jesus and tried to get her former partner's custodial rights erased.

In any event, barring a USSC decision on this, the laws will continue to vary from state to state. It seems to me that if a man donates sperm to a sperm bank it should follow that he loses all parental rights and responsibilities to said child. If a man donates to a friend in any other manner, I would imagine that the case would get so much murkier.

On a side bar, I also love RF and tried to track down the source of your quote, but could not.

On yet another side bar, I've a link on my blog to yours, because I enjoy your blog. However, my blog often carries adult material and I will erase the link if you want me to.