Sunday, August 30, 2009

Parenting Rights

Recently I read this article about lesbians in the UK being given the right to put both of their names on the birth certificate of their child as parents instead of only having the biological mother being allowed to. This new law allows both women to officially be considered the legal guardians of the child, and allows them the same legal benefits as heterosexual couples in terms of parenting.

When reading the article, I was reminded of the issues that remain in the United States relating to this issue. In the US, despite the fact that many same-sex couples exist in the form of domestic partnership (I'm not referring to those within states allowing gay marriage) and have children, they are still not allowed this very fundamental piece of legal benefit.

For example, although we allow a same-sex couple to bring up children in many states, the fact that many of these couples only have the amount of rights afforded to them that domestic partnerships offer, which is a fraction to that of actual marriage, it seems our laws care more about avoiding recognizing the legitimacy of a relationship than they do about the children in these relationships. For example, if something happens to the partner in a same-sex relationship that is registered as the adoptive parent of a child, that entire family can end up being split apart because the remaining parent is not legally bound to the adopted child. That means that a child that still has one gay parent left could potentially be sent back to foster care, or to a distant family member of the child. Furthermore, this disaster is even more likely to happen when the legal parent of a child in a domestic partnership is not covered by their partner's health insurance (which is another consequence of the lesser rights of domestic partnership).

If these partnerships are allowed to exist in the first place, what is the purpose of not allowing them some small benefits that would provide a world of difference for the family, especially the child? If a child grows up with two loving parents, regardless of their gender, is there any sensible reason why our current laws would rather a foster child go back to the foster care system than live with a remaining parent merely because that parent isn't technically registered as a parent, but is considered one by the child? Shouldn't the children raised by same sex couples out of foster care be the ones to judge what parents are more "natural", or more importantly, suitable as parents?