Connecticut House Passes Bill to Update State’s Parentage Laws with Strong Bipartisan Support

Queer Parents and Advocates Testify to Update Connecticut Parentage Laws

The Connecticut House of Representatives today passed the Connecticut Parentage Act (CPA) 141-1, with many Republicans joining Democratic colleagues to speak out in strong support of the bill. The landmark legislation would update the state’s laws to better protect all children, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or the marital status, gender, or sexual orientation of their parents.

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Connecticut remains the only New England state that leaves children born to non-biological, non-marital parents wholly unprotected in its parentage laws. The CPA would rectify that. It would also set standards to protect parents, child, and surrogate in families formed through surrogacy; remove gender-specific language from parentage laws; and allow both married and unmarried same-sex couples, like different-sex couples, to file a simple Acknowledgment of Parentage form to establish a legal parent-child relationship at the time of a child’s birth, without needing a home study or court hearing. (For more on Acknowledgments of Parentage, see this piece I wrote last year.) Like similar legislation that has passed in Maine, Washington, Vermont, California, and Rhode Island, the CPA is based on model legislation by the Uniform Law Commission, a non-partisan body of state lawmakers, judges, scholars, and lawyers.

The effort to pass the CPA is led by the WE CARE Coalition, consisting of families, legal advocates, and community organizations, spearheaded by a Yale Law School clinic and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). The bill has wide support among child advocates, legal organizations, LGBTQ groups, and medical experts.

“Today’s historic vote is a victory for children and families across Connecticut,” said Professor Douglas NeJaime of Yale Law School, a Connecticut native and principal drafter of the bill. “We are now on the cusp of a Connecticut that treats all families with the respect and recognition they deserve, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or marital status.”

“A secure relationship to their parents is core to the wellbeing of every child, and today’s vote brings us one step closer to a recognition of legal parentage that reflects and protects the diversity of Connecticut families,” said GLAD Senior Staff Attorney Polly Crozier. “We’re grateful to the leadership of Representative Currey [Rep. Jeff Currey (D), lead sponsor of the bill], our sponsors, and every House member who voted today.” Both she and NeJaime urged the Senate to act quickly to pass the bill as well.

As two of the key leaders behind the bill, they might be expected to say such things. More surprising, perhaps, were the comments of several Republican representatives who spoke before today’s vote. Rep. Craig C. Fishbein (R) noted that the marital presumption of parentage—the legal assumption that a child born to a woman is also the child of her spouse—does not currently apply to same-sex couples. “This law attempts to correct that inequality, because we are all equal,” he said. He also spoke of his best friend, a woman raising a child with her partner, another woman. “They do so very well, just as well as the traditional couple,” he noted. “That’s all surrounded by love and that’s something that we should foster. And I believe this bill does that.”

Rep. Greg Howard (R) spoke of a former classmate who is a woman married to a woman. In speaking with her, he said, he was “troubled” to learn that her spouse did not have the immediate recognition of parentage like he had had at the birth of his first child. “I don’t think our laws should treat any person differently,” he reflected. “I am overjoyed to support this bill for my friend and all people in Connecticut and most specifically the children.”

This bill will … truly ensure that love is love.

Rep. Tammy Nuccio (R) said the work of Currey and NeJaime on the bill “touches me on a personal level.” She spoke of her experience as a heterosexual woman with three children, “not all of them planned,” who could simply have a baby and focus on being a great parent. She contrasted this with the experience of some people whom she loves “more dearly than anything,” but for whom having children meant planning and saving and working around “all of the ins and outs.” At the end of all that, when their child is born, she explained, “They’re not necessarily going to be able to be their parent without more money, more spending, more time in the courts to be afforded the rights that we [heterosexual parents] are given just by happenstance. This bill will correct that and truly ensure that love is love…. You are just a parent because you are choosing to go down that path.”

The one vote against the bill was from Rep. Mark Anderson (R). During the discussion prior to the vote, he noted that same-sex couples in the state can already adopt, and asked what the bill really changes from current law. Rep. Steven Stafstrom (D), chair of the Judiciary Committee, answered that it changes things “significantly” and eliminates the need to go through the “lengthy, complex, and often costly” second-parent adoption process. (Again, though, please see this piece for more on Acknowledgments of Parentage versus second-parent adoptions and why simply being on your child’s birth certificate is not enough—and please speak with a lawyer if you have questions about any of this.)

The bill moves on to the Senate, where a vote will likely happen sometime before the session ends in early June.

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