Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Three Cheers for the Calif Supreme Court

Three cheers for the California Supreme Court, which handed down three separate decisions this week all on the side of responsibility, the best interest of children, and recognition of same-sex couples. In one case, "Elisa B. vs. Emily B.", Elisa and Emily were a lesbian couple who planned to raise children together. Both were artificially inseminated from the same source, so that their children would be biological half-siblings (strengthening the legal basis for keeping the family together should anything happen to one of the parents). Both women gave birth, Elisa to a single child and Emily to twins, one of which has Down's syndrome. They agreed that Elisa would be the breadwinner while Emily would be the stay-at-home mom. The women later separated, and Elisa disavowed any legal claim to support the twins born to Emily. Not so fast, the trial court told Elisa: You actively helped your partner get pregnant, you agreed to raise the children as your own, for years you held them out as your own; that makes you their parent, and that means you're paying child support. An appeals court reversed, but the Supreme Court overruled, reaffirming the trial court's ruling. The Court found that a biological relationship is not required for legal parenthood (particularly where artificial insemination is involved), and that the state has a significant interest in parents supporting their children even after relationships break up.

In another case, "K.M. vs. E.G.", the two women had arranged that one woman's ovum would be artificially inseminated and planted in the other woman to bear their child, so that both women would have some biological relationship to their child. Later when they separated, the birth mother attempted to shut out the egg-donor mother, mostly based on the fact that the egg-donor mother had signed away her legal parental rights as part of the standard egg donation procedures at the fertility clinic that performed the procedure. Not so fast, ruled the Court. This child was conceived by the active intention and participation of both women, and was held out as their child, therefore both women are parents. "We perceive no reason why both parents of a child cannot be women," said the Court.

In the third case, the two women had a written pre-birth agreement to share parental rights and responsibilities, which the biological parent later tried to get out of. The Court noted the strong public policy interest "favoring that a child has two parents rather than one." In each of these cases, the Court built on a body of common law that has been built up in cases regarding unmarried heterosexual parents, and found no reason not to apply the same standards to same-sex couples. These are pro-family decisions in that they defend the best interest of the children, and enjoin parental responsibility. And they underscore not only the reasonableness but the necessity to allow same-sex marriage, in order to better protect same-sex families raising children. (In the meantime, shame on those who would cynically abuse the lack of legal same-sex marriage to try to dodge their parental responsibilities. A deadbeat is a deadbeat, straight or gay.)

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