Children are raised in families of all shapes and sizes; but unfortunately, not all of these families are recognized in the law. A new bill in California, however, may change this. SB 1476 could legalize the documentation of a third parent, such as in the case of surrogacy, adoption, or remarriage. If this parent is an active presence in the life of a child, the parent can be given legal rights to, for example, participate in the child’s schooling or give advice to doctors when the child is in the hospital. LGBT families oftentimes rely upon these family networks, but legal change is slow to recognize their existence. Advocates for this bill insist that it is in the best interest of children: “It’s not us who have changed the nature of families; families have done it on their own. It is cruel to prevent judges from ruling a way that protects kids in favor of an abstraction of what a family used to look like.” This statement from Ed Howard, the senior counsel for the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, expresses the essence of SB 1476. Refusing to legally recognize existing families silences these children in a world that desperately needs to hear their voice. California is getting closer to achieving a new, more complete level of family equality.
Read below for an excerpt from the ThinkProgress.org story:
Despite the fact that about 2 million children are being raised by LGBT parents in the United States, those children don’t always have legal relationships to the parental figures who care for them. State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) is seeking to partially address the issue of parental rights by amending California’s current two-parents-per-child law to allow judges to recognize multiple parents in the cases where it would best serve the children.
Ed Howard, the senior counsel for the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, told the Associated Press that SB 1476 is ultimately designed with the best interest of today’s children in mind:
HOWARD: It’s not us who have changed the nature of families; families have done it on their own. It is cruel to prevent judges from ruling a way that protects kids in favor of an abstraction of what a family used to look like.
Leno believes that his bill “brings California into the 21st century” by recognizing that — thanks to adoption, surrogacy, and remarriages — modern families now take on many different forms in addition to the traditional two-parent household. For example, under the proposed bill, a lesbian couple who conceived a child with the help of a sperm donor could list the child’s biological father as a legal parent if he remained an active presence in the child’s life.
SB 1476, which has already passed the state senate and is now making its way through the Assembly Appropriations Committee, was inspired by a 2011 court case in which the state took custody of a young girl after her two mothers were unable to care for her. The appellate court ruled that the girl’s biological father did not count as a third legal guardian under California’s existing law. . . .