In a groundbreaking ruling, a Florida judge has allowed three parents to be listed on a birth certificate: a married lesbian couple and a gay man.
Massimiliano Gerina had provided his sperm to his hairdressing client Maria Italiano and her partner, Cher Filippazzo, as a favor in helping them get pregnant but later decided he wanted to be involved in the child’s life. The women disagreed but since they had never drawn up a written agreement with Gerina, the case went to court.
The judge’s ruling now means that the birth certificate for the couple’s 22-month-old girl will show Gerina as biological father and Italiano and Filippazzo as parents. The women have sole parental rights. Though Gerina has visitation rights, he is not required to pay child support.
Implications for LGBT parents: The good
Allowing three parents to be listed on a birth certificate is a huge step forward for many families who don’t fit the traditional mold.
In Canada, for example, though a gay man and a surrogate mother can be listed as parents on a birth certificate, if the man has a partner who also wants legal status as a parent, the surrogate must first give up all rights to the child she bore and have her name removed from the birth certificate. If three parents were allowed on birth certificates, surrogates could remain on record as birth mothers.
Many LGBT people co-parent with one or more other people. Some lesbians, for example, would appreciate the chance to recognize their sperm donor as a biological parent.
This lesbian couple in the Netherlands co-parents with a gay couple who are both donors to their two children. Though their children really have four parents, only two are legally recognized. The Lusero family in Colorado is similar: two kids, four parents.
Implications for LGBT parents: The bad
There is a worrisome angle to the Florida ruling, however, and that’s the granting of a sperm donor rights to a child when the parents don’t wish to the donor to have rights.
The issue seems to be popping up in courts everywhere these days in various permutations.
You likely recall the lesbian couple who made headlines in late December because their sperm donor was being chased by the state of Kansas for child support. The women aren’t asking the donor for child support but the state is trying to insist. The couple had a written agreement with the donor but didn’t use a doctor to help them with the insemination, which in Kansas makes the agreement void. (Kind of a silly rule if you ask me.)
In Britain, a judge recently ruled that a gay sperm donor had rights to the child he helped a lesbian couple conceive. Again in this case, there had been no written agreement between the people involved and the man later decided he wanted to be part of the child’s life.
The court decreed that the sperm donor didn’t need to have had a sexual relationship with the mother in order to have a say in the child’s upbringing. Anybody else’s alarm bells ringing right now?
Kevin Skinner, the lesbian couple’s lawyer, told Gulf News:
“Although the judge’s decision makes clear that the family unit should be protected, the possibility of donors being able to apply for court orders will be a scary prospect for many parents, both gay and straight.
Um, yeah. My partner and I recently used a sperm bank and an anonymous donor to get pregnant. The prospect of the sperm donor having the right to pop up at any time and ask for access to our child, or someone forcing child support on him, is “a scary prospect.” To say the least.
Skinner went on to say:
“What is crucial is that anyone planning on having a child through the use of fertility treatment should make sure that proper plans are in place before the process begins.”
Yes to that too. Both the Florida couple and the UK couple ended up in court because they had only verbal agreements with their donors. If you’re not going to use a sperm bank to find a donor, then get those papers signed!
Courts all around the world are dealing with marriage and family situations that the current laws just weren’t made to include. I know there will be growing pains as the laws expand to recognize the rich variety of families that exist. But right now, though there are positive precedents being set, some of the fights are little scary to me.
What’s your take?