Tag: Parents

Kansas Supreme Court Recognizes “Notorious” Nonbiological Parents

Kansas Supreme Court Recognizes "Notorious" Nonbiological Parents

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last week that nonbiological mothers may be recognized as parents simply by acknowledging maternity at the time a child is born and showing that the birth mother consented to shared parenting. The case also brings us what could be the best use of the word “notorious” since RBG.

Flag of Kansas

The two cases, In re M.F. and In re W.L., involved nonbiological, nongestational mothers who were trying to establish parental rights after they had separated from their partners. The couples had never married and had not made any written co-parenting agreements. In one case, both of the mothers’ names were on the child’s birth certificate; in the other, they were not, although the twins’ last names were hyphenates of the mothers’ names. Neither nonbiological parent had done a second-parent (co-parent) adoption. Two lower courts said the nonbiological mothers were not legal parents, but the state Supreme Court has now overturned those rulings.

The Supreme Court had also decided in a nonbiological mother’s favor in a 2013 decision involving a separated same-sex couple—but in that case, the women had a written co-parenting agreement. The parents in the current cases did not. Nevertheless, the court ruled last week, just because the earlier couple had a written agreement didn’t mean that subsequent couples were required to show written agreements or their oral equivalents.

They concluded in the current two cases that based on current state parenting statutes, “A woman seeking to establish parenthood who relies on the presumption of maternity under [state law] need not show the existence of a written or oral coparenting agreement between her and the birth mother. She need only show she has notoriously recognized maternity and the rights and duties attendant to it at the time of the child’s birth” and that “the birth mother has consented to shared parenting at the time of the child’s birth.”

“Notorious” in its legal sense means something “generally known and talked of.” I now sort of want a t-shirt that says “Notorious Parent.” (Maybe this can be the next fundraiser from one of our LGBTQ legal organizations….)

The court made a further important point, stressing that in one of the cases, it was the nonbiological parent K.L.’s “notorious recognition” of her parentage, not (as the lower courts had said) any “open and notorious demonstrations of parenting” or “open and notorious assumption of parenting responsibilities” that mattered. They explain the distinction:

It simply was not necessary that she demonstrate she was an attentive, hands-on, involved mother. Rather, she had to show that she notoriously recognized her maternity, including the rights it would give her and the duties it would impose upon her. The two [lower] courts’ focus … needed to be on whether K.L. had qualified as one of M.F.’s [the child’s] two parents, not on whether she had later turned out to be a model of parenting success.

In other words, nonbiological parents needn’t feel the pressure to prove they are model parents in order to be recognized as parents, something many earlier LGBTQ parents have had to struggle with as they fought for legal rights to their children.

Furthermore, the court said, it is important that the nonbiological mother’s acknowledgment of maternity and the biological mother’s consent happen at the child’s birth, in order to establish stability for the child:

Allowing unilateral action by either party to thwart the maternity of the other after a child has arrived and vital bonds with both have begun to form is unacceptable…. [A] demand that each individual have made up her mind as of the time of the baby’s arrival incentivizes stability for that child over surmountable relationship disappointments that are bound to occur…. In the case of the birth of a child, the crystallization of the parties’ individual intents at the time the child enters the world configures the family.

This is great news, showing that even in Kansas, a very red state, we can make progress for queer families.

New Report Looks at Need to Support LGBTQ Parents and Parents of LGBTQ Kids

New Report Looks at Need to Support LGBTQ Parents and

The first report from a new project dedicated to families with LGBTQ children or parents shows the negative impact of stigma on both groups—and points the way forward to keeping these families strong and healthy.

Hands

Families with LGBTQ Children or Parents: Countering Stigma with Knowledge and Support” is the first publication of The Constellation Project, which formed last year as a data resource to help both nonprofits and researchers reach out to and serve families with LGBTQ children or parents. One of the authors is Nathaniel Frank, the director of Cornell University’s What We Know Project, which I’ve long cited as a resource for all of the academic papers showing the well-being of children with LGBTQ parents.

In his introduction to the Constellation report, Frank explains that families with LGBTQ children and families with LGBTQ parents both “face stigma and rejection” and “both require similar mitigation.” The report therefore offers two literature reviews, one for each group, showing the research that exists and identifying gaps in our knowledge. (I will also note that of course these two groups aren’t mutually exclusive.)

Frank points out, however, that “The scholarly consensus on LG [lesbian and gay] parenting is now so robust that, besides noting a need for further research on how to mitigate the impact of stigma on children with LGBTQ parents, this report does not dwell on the outdated question of whether LG parenting yields adequate child wellbeing outcomes. It’s now clear that, as the 2010 film put it, ‘The Kids Are All Right.’” Thank goodness that’s settled. (In my opinion, it was settled long ago; it’s just nice to see additional affirmations of it. And while there’s been less research on kids of transgender and bisexual parents, I can’t imagine the results will be different when it comes to children’s well-being.)

Instead, he says, the report shows “a particular need to focus research and support on parents.” Parental rejection of LGBTQ children is a key cause of many negative outcomes, but research shows (as I’ve discussed) that “even ambivalent and rejecting parents are often open to interventions to improve their family relationships.” We need to look even further at how best to do that. As for LGBTQ parents, Frank says, they still need support, like all parents, and may also “experience difficulties obtaining the same opportunities and protections that many parents take for granted.”

The first review, by Kirsty A. Clark and John E. Pachankis of Yale University, focuses on families with LGBTQ youth. The report summarizes what they say we know:

  • LGBTQ youth are more likely to face stigma-related stressors and associated mental health problems than their heterosexual, cisgender peers.
  • Parental rejection of LGBTQ youth raises the odds of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, substance use, and other risk-taking behavior among LGBTQ youth.
  • Support by parents of their LGBTQ children is associated with positive mental health and serves as a buffer against the harmful effects of minority stress.
  • Parents of transgender and gender-diverse youth face unique social, emotional, and institutional challenges around their children’s social and medical gender affirmation processes.

Future research directions include the need to:

  • Recruit more parents with conflictual or negative responses to their LGBTQ children, as well as parents with limited financial resources, conservative cultural or religious values, and more diverse racial, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds.
  • Recruit parents and parent-child dyads to research parent-child relationships directly, without relying primarily on youth self-reports.
  • Conduct more longitudinal studies of parental reactions to LGBTQ youth.
  • Rigorously test promising interventions that support parents of LGBTQ children, particularly those geared toward parents with rejecting or ambivalent attitudes.

The second review, by Susie Bower-Brown and Anja McConnachie of the University of Cambridge, focuses on families with LGBTQ parents. Research currently tells us:

  • LGBTQ people face discrimination when seeking to adopt or use assistive reproductive technology.
  • Rejection and differential treatment of LGBTQ parents often come from extended family (such as grandparents).
  • LGBTQ parents face further levels of stigma and other barriers when they are also members of other marginalized populations based on racial and ethnic identity and socioeconomic status, as well as when they live in conservative communities.
  • Bisexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming parents face additional hurdles to optimal wellbeing by virtue of their marginalized status, even within the LGBTQ population.

In the future, the report says, we should:

  • Obtain more robust counts of LGBTQ parents, such as via the U.S. Census.
  • Recruit and research larger numbers of LGBTQ parents, particularly those with diverse racial, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds; those with lower income; those from environments with conservative cultural or religious values; and those who are bisexual or transgender or gender-nonconforming.
  • Identify and test protective factors for LGBTQ parents, and their children, in hostile environments.
  • Research how rejection and differential treatment of LGBTQ parents by their own families (i.e. grandparents) affect family outcomes.

If you’re interested in the details behind all this, I encourage you to read the full report, though it is a dense dose of social science research, which will either delight you or make you run away screaming. (No judgment either way; I was trained as a historian myself and have sympathies on both sides.) If you don’t want to wade through it, at least know that it exists as a resource to guide policymakers, advocates, health care professionals, educators, and others, because, as Frank says, “The needs of the families in this report must be addressed at every level—political, social, and cultural—with an increase in knowledge, community and support.”

No matter who wins the election next week, the conservative shift of the U.S. Supreme Court and the threat that poses to LGBTQ families makes such work—backed by legitimate, authoritative social science research—even more vital than ever.

Same-Sex Parents Win as State Department Backs Down in Two Cases Challenging Children’s Citizenship

Same-Sex Parents Win as State Department Backs Down in Two

In a significant victory for same-sex parents, the U.S. State Department on Monday backed down in two cases where it had been challenging the citizenship of children born abroad to married two-dad couples who were U.S. citizens.

Kiviti and Mize-Gregg families

The State Department withdrew its appeal in Kiviti vs. Pompeo, a case involving dads Roee and Adiel Kiviti, who legally married in California in 2013, and had their daughter Kessem via surrogacy in Canada in 2019. Because Kessem was born outside the U.S. and only has a biological connection to Adiel, however, the State Department considered Kessem as “born out of wedlock.” The department would not grant her citizenship unless she had a biological relationship to a U.S. citizen parent who had resided in the U.S. for five years. Even though both Roee and Adiel are U.S. citizens, Adiel was born in Israel and was one year short of the residency requirement.

The dads sued the State Department in 2019 with the help of Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality and pro bono counsel Morgan Lewis, arguing that the residency requirement didn’t apply to the children of married U.S. citizens. The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled in June that Kessem should be granted citizenship and that the Immigration and Nationality Act “does not require a biological relationship with both parents.”

After this week’s withdrawal by the State Department, Roee Kiviti said in a press statement:

We are very relieved, on behalf of our daughter, on behalf of our family, and on behalf of LGBT families across this great country of ours. The law was always clear. We knew it, the courts knew it, and now the State Department knows it, too.

Adiel Kiviti added:

This was never just about us. It was always about standing up for what’s right. We are grateful to those who did it before us, and we are humbled to be a part of the ongoing struggle for justice.

The State Department also said this week that it would not appeal the district court’s decision in Mize-Gregg v. Pompeo, where it had been challenging the citizenship of Simone Mize-Gregg, daughter of U.S. citizen’s Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg. The men had legally married in New York in 2015 and now live in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2018, they had Simone via surrogacy in England and both fathers are listed on her birth certificate. Gregg himself had been born in London to a married U.S. citizen and was therefore a U.S. citizen since birth—but like Adiel Kiviti, was short of the five-year residency requirement in the U.S. That should not have been an issue, however, since he was married to a U.S. citizen—but the State Department refused Simone’s citizenship, treating her as “born out of wedlock.” The dads sued the State Department in 2019 with the help of the same organizations as the Kivitis. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia found in their favor  August.

Mize and Gregg said in a statement yesterday after the State Department said it would not appeal that decision:

We are extremely grateful that this fight is over and won. All we ever wanted was for Simone to be treated fairly. This process has reaffirmed for us that standing up for equal treatment is always right, no matter how difficult it is or long it may take.

Two more couples have sued the State Department for similar reasons. In October, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Dvash-Banks family, recognizing their child’s birthright citizenship. And a case involving two moms is now before a district court in New Jersey. There’s no word yet on whether the State Department will withdraw in these cases as well, but as Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney at Lambda Legal and one of the lawyers for the families, said yesterday, “We hope that the Trump Administration and the State Department will abide by these courts’ decisions when it encounters other families headed by same-sex couples. No family should have to go through what the Kiviti and Mize-Gregg families endured.”

How Do Children of Lesbian Parents Relate to Their Sperm Donors?

How Do Children of Lesbian Parents Relate to Their Sperm

It’s International Lesbian Day, so let’s celebrate with the latest results from the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), the longest-running study on any LGBTQ-parent families. This summer, the project published a study of the relationships between the adult offspring of lesbian parents and their unknown or known donors.

Two moms and their three children

The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) has focused on the same group of subjects over many years (what researchers call a “longitudinal” study) and offers a picture of lesbian-headed families that few other studies can match. Principal Researcher Nanette Gartrell, M.D., a psychiatrist and Visiting Distinguished Scholar at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, and her colleagues began interviewing the parents in 1986, when they were inseminating or pregnant, then again when their children were 1 1/2 to 2 years old, 5, 10, 17, and 25. (They focused on donor-insemination (DI) families in order to limit the number of variables, especially with the few resources they had for the study.) They also directly questioned the children at 10, 17, and 25 years of age. The study has had a remarkable 92 percent retention rate since it began.

The interviews at age 25 were the first to be conducted after those with open-identity donors became old enough (18) to contact their donors, and the latest study dives deep into the relationships between them. Among the 76 participant children, there were approximately equal numbers of men and women. Most were White, college graduates, and self-identified heterosexuals. Thirty had permanently unknown donors and 16 had open-identity donors whom they had not met. Another thirty had currently known donors, of whom 22 had always known them. Eight had open-identity donors whom they had met at an average age of 20.4 years old.

Among those with a donor they had always known, 10 of the 22 characterized him as a ‘‘father.’’ The researchers note, “In choosing a known donor, some NLLFS parents anticipated the possibility that the donor would assume a father role or be identified by the child in that way.” At the same time, seven of the eight offspring with open-identity donors whom they had met characterized them as ‘”acquaintances.”

Nearly half of all who knew their donors had good feelings about their relationship, though a minority expressed “conflicted feelings.” The researchers explain:

Offspring comments demonstrating conflicts or reservations centered on mismatched perceptions, hopes, or expectations of either the offspring toward their donor (‘‘I would have preferred that he were someone more similar to me’’) or the offspring’s view of their donor’s false hopes or expectations of the offspring (‘‘He became. . .dissatisfied with my choices’’, and ‘‘He sees himself as a father but I would consider him more of an uncle or relative.’’).

Those who did not know their donors, either because they never could or simply had not met yet,  expressed “more comfort than discomfort” about them. The researchers hypothesize that “early disclosure to offspring of their donor origins, even with a permanently unknown donor, along with conversations about the rationale for type of donor selected, may have contributed to these feelings of relative comfort.”

They also note that most of the research done on DI offspring has been on those with heterosexual parents, and that based on this, “It has been proposed that DI offspring who cannot or do not have contact with their donors may have identity formation problems or even ‘genealogical bewilderment.’” Yet these problems were not found in the NLLFS offspring, and there were “no psychological adjustment differences between offspring based on their donor type.”

Age-appropriate, early, and open disclosure of a child’s DI origins may be integral to facilitating an understanding of this information and to creating overall positive feelings about the donor.

Many of the previous studies, however, found that offspring had a more negative response when they learned about their donors as adults or by accident. Since only one third of DI offspring in the NLLFS sought to contact their open-identity donors (a rate consistent with a previous study from the Sperm Bank of California), this might mean that “strong family bonding with open and early discussions of their origins have resulted in most offspring not feeling an urgency or desire for donor contact.” They conclude that “Age-appropriate, early, and open disclosure of a child’s DI origins may be integral to facilitating an understanding of this information and to creating overall positive feelings about the donor, whether always-known, open-identity and met, or unknown, and whether from a lesbian couple, heterosexual couple, or single woman.”

The study has some limitations, however. The NLFFS is a non-representative sample because it began when many lesbians were closeted and most could not access DI, so a more representative sample wasn’t feasible. The parent sample therefore “lacked diversity,” and the offspring, “who are mostly white and highly educated,” don’t reflect do not reflect what the entire population of DI offspring with lesbian parents looks like. (Of the 76 parents, 69 were White and seven were people of color.)

At the same time, the results do suggest some ways that we DI parents can try to approach discussion of our children’s origins with them. They also offer health care professionals some insight into working with us. The researchers advise that clinicians “should be aware of the different life experiences of offspring with known, identity-release donors, and unknown donors.” Clinicians should also keep in mind that those who have always known or recently met their donors generally feel positive about them. When there is conflict, it is often about mismatched expectations, which “might be mitigated by clear and continuous communication between lesbian parents and their offspring about role expectations concerning an always-known or recently met open-identity donor.”

More generally, they say, health care practitioners should be familiar with the research that shows “the adult DI offspring of lesbian-identified parents fared as well as their peers in population-based comparisons of psychological adjustment” and “should not assume that sexual minority parentage or DI conception inevitably is associated with any psychological challenge that DI adult offspring may report because empiric studies have shown overwhelmingly that family processes have more influence on mental health outcomes than family structure or the means of conception.”

Darn right.

  • Want to know more about the NLLFS and its results? See my post on their paper from last fall, the first to look at the overall experiences of any LGBTQ parents from their children’s conception through young adulthood, and my interview with Gartrell in 2018.
  • Want some help talking with your kids about their donors? Kim Bergman’s Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction is a good place to start. (See my longer review here.) Bergman, a fertility expert and a lesbian mom herself, has also written a picture book, You Began as a Wish, based on “what I’ve been telling parents for 30 years to tell their kids.” (See my longer review here.) Another good picture book on the subject is  Zak’s Safari, by Christy Tyner. Get a hard copy here, or view it free online here (in English, Spanish, or French).

The current paper is “Adult offspring of lesbian parents: how do they relate to their sperm donors?” in Fertility and Sterility, by Audrey S. Koh, M.D., Gabriel van Beusekom, Ph.D., Nanette K. Gartrell, M.D., and Henny Bos, Ph.D., July 03, 2020.


(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that provides a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)

“What’s in a Name?” Anthology Gives Voice to Nonbiological/Nongestational Queer Parents

"What's in a Name?" Anthology Gives Voice to Nonbiological/Nongestational Queer

A must-read new anthology about queer women and nonbinary people who are nonbiological and nongestational parents looks at their paths to parenthood, their experiences as parents, and the evolving meanings of what it is to be a mother.

What’s in a Name: Perspectives from Nonbiological and Nongestational Queer Mothers

What’s in a Name: Perspectives from Nonbiological and Nongestational Queer Mothers, edited by Sherri Martin-Baron, Raechel Johns, and Emily Regan Wills (Demeter Press), is the first book in nearly a decade and a half to dedicate itself to the experiences of this segment of queer parents. Way back in 2006, when this blog was barely a year old, Harlyn Aizley brought together numerous voices in her edited volume Confessions of the Other Mother: Nonbiological Lesbian Moms Tell All. It remains a valuable work, but much has changed legally and socially since its publication—and there is no reason not to add even more perspectives to our understanding.

The editors of What’s in a Name are all queer parents themselves. In their introduction to the volume, Martin-Baron says that in creating the book, she wanted “to build a community resource and give voice to positive, real stories. ” Johns “knew that our stories could help people plan their families or navigate becoming a nonbiological or nongestational parent.” Wills adds, with repercussions outside the queer community, “I see us beginning to write a theory of mothering/parenting beyond biology.” On all three counts they are likely to succeed.

They showcase essays by themselves and 12 other writers from Australia, Austria, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Some contributors had always known they did not want to or were not able to carry a child; others keenly wanted to but experienced fertility roadblocks; some are nonbiological/nongestational parents to one of their children but gave birth to another. Some of them view their motherhood through intersectional lenses of race, disability, or a nonbinary or more masculine gender identity. There are vignettes about forming families and securing them; about struggling against a society that either didn’t recognize their role as mothers or sought to frame them as it often frames straight fathers—distanced and vaguely incompetent as parents. Several contributors reflect on their children’s preferences for one parent over another, a preference that can change and that isn’t always tied to biology; others muse on the parental names they’ve chosen, and one looks closely at the microaggression of those who assume that she’ll want to give birth to her family’s next child, as if being a nonbiological mother was something to be bettered. Contributor Sonja MacKenzie reminds us, too, that even within the queer community, “normative biological tropes” are “often internalized and reproduced.”

No other qualification makes a parent but a choice to love.

We learn how these mothers around the world have navigated their relationships with their children, their partners, donor siblings (who by their very existence  center a biological connection), the society around them, and their own selves, as they seek to understand and shape their identity as mothers. These stories will make readers, no matter what their parental status or path to parenthood, think deeply about what it means to be a mother and a parent. Contributor Clare Candland, for example, writes of the love that makes a parent, asserting:

This kind of love isn’t earned like a badge. This kind of love doesn’t necessarily come from a pregnancy or birth. This kind of love come from a choice to open oneself up to it. It comes from a choice to embrace the responsibility and vulnerability that make up a parent and a commitment to follow through on that choice, even when the effects push you into a life that you never expected or wanted…. No other qualification makes a parent but a choice to love.

And contributor Patricia Curmi even suggests that there are advantages to being a nonbiological and nongestational parent, saying, “I’ve discovered that I enjoy my relationship with our daughter not being rooted in shared genetic traits. It has challenged me to keep seeing and reseeing her as a person wholly unto herself, free from my projections and expectations of what a child with my genes should be like.”

My only criticism of this superb volume is that I would have liked to have seen some essays by people of color, although a few of the contributors do talk about having multiracial children or a partner or donor of another racial or ethnic identity.

Nonbiological/nongestational parents or parents-to-be will be uplifted and strengthened by the stories here; biological ones may have a better understanding of what their partners/spouses may feel or encounter.  Parents and prospective parents of any type—queer or not—will find much to ponder about the meaning of parenting, family, and love.


(I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that provides a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)

The Consequences of the 2020 Election for LGBTQ Parents and Our Children

The Consequences of the 2020 Election for LGBTQ Parents and

This November’s presidential election may carry with it the biggest consequences any U.S. election has ever had for LGBTQ parents and our children. That’s why we need to make our voting plans now.

U.S. Flag in Cloudy Sky

As writer, professor, and transgender parent Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote today in her New York Times piece, “What’s at Stake for L.G.B.T.Q. Families in This Election,” President Trump’s record on LGBTQ equality is atrocious. The Republican party’s 2020 platform—identical to its 2016 platform—condemns marriage equality. (I’ll note that it refers to marriage as “one man and one woman” a total of five times.) The president’s recent shortlist of potential Supreme Court nominees for his second term includes many anti-LGBTQ individuals.

That’s troubling for many reasons, as Boylan says (and her full piece, as always, is worth a read). I’ll add another: several important cases related to LGBTQ parental rights are still making their way through the federal courts. They will decide whether children born outside of the U.S. to parents in same-sex relationships, at least one of whom is a U.S. citizen, should have U.S. citizenship. While the families have had some wins, the U.S. State Department continues to appeal them.

Another case, on whether taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies should be able to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others by citing religious beliefs, will be heard by the Supreme Court on November 4, the day after the election—too early for any of the new nominees, but still a case to watch in a majority conservative court.

On the state level, there is still much progress to be made in terms of simple, cheap, and solid legal protections for both parents in same-sex couples. (Herewith your regular reminder that marriage alone isn’t enough.) That has less to do with who sits in the Oval Office and more with state legislatures and governors’ offices, but is yet another reason to vote this fall.

As Boylan notes, however, citing data from the Williams Institute at UCLA, an estimated one-fifth of queer adults are not registered to vote. That’s rather appalling. That same Williams study also found that “LGBT voters were significantly more likely than non-LGBT voters to say they would support candidates who are black, Latino/a, or LGBT themselves.” If you want our elected officials to be as diverse as America really is:

  • Register to vote if you’re not already.
  • Check here if you’re not sure.
  • Get an absentee ballot if you’d rather vote by mail (and do this well in advance in case of mail delays).
  • Find your polling place if you plan to go in person. Make plans for a long wait in line, if necessary (bring a book or a deck of cards; try this book if you want to show young kids why you’re there)—and coordinate rides with friends and neighbors.
  • Help out with nonpartisan voter outreach campaigns like Reclaim Our Vote to help ensure every American can exercise this fundamental right, or stay involved with LGBTQ and other social justice organizations. If you have college-age kids, you may wish to suggest they help with Every Vote Counts, a student-led, nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout and expanding voter access nationwide.
  • If you want to help turn out Democrats in battleground states (even if you don’t live there), check out this page from Vote Save America.

We can make a difference. These next seven weeks are critical,  however. Let’s do this.

Croatian Men Become Country’s First Same-Sex Foster Parents

Croatian Men Become Country's First Same-Sex Foster Parents

Two men in Croatia have become the country’s first same-sex foster parents after a three-year struggle.

Flag of Croatia

Mladena Kožica and Ive Šegote applied to become foster parents in 2017. Although they passed all the required tests, they were rejected because they were in a same-sex life partnership. Same-sex couples cannot marry in Croatia, but may enter into “life partnerships”—and the one area where same-sex partnerships were unequal to marriage was in fostering and adoption. The couple appealed to the Family Ministry, were again rejected, and then sued. In December 2019 they won their case to become foster parents, reported Deutsche Welle.

Separately, in January 2020, the Croatia Constitutional Court decided that same-sex couples have the right to be foster parents just like anyone else. The men have recently begun fostering two children, reported Croatian LGBT news portal CroL on Monday.

Daniel Martinovic, head of the country’s Rainbow Family Association, an advocacy and networking organization, told Barron’s, “This gives us hope that things in our country can still change.” He said he would continue to fight for “full marital and family equality” including the right to adopt children (which, as this article explains, is still an open question).

Šegote is also the author of the first picture book in Eastern Europe to depict a family with same-sex parents.

Federal Court Orders U.S. State Dept. to Recognize Citizenship of Child with Married Same-Sex Parents

Federal Court Orders U.S. State Dept. to Recognize Citizenship of

A federal court yesterday ordered the U.S. State Department to recognize the citizenship of the two-year-old daughter of a married two-dad couple, both U.S. citizens, in the second immigration victory for same-sex parents this summer.

Derek Mize, Jonathan Gregg, and daughter Simone Mize-Gregg. Photo credit: Lambda Legal

Derek Mize, Jonathan Gregg, and daughter Simone Mize-Gregg. Photo credit: Lambda Legal

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia told the State Department that it must recognize the citizenship of Simone Mize-Gregg, daughter of Derek Mize and Jonathan Gregg, who married in New York in 2015 and now live in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2018, they had Simone via surrogacy in England and both fathers are listed on her birth certificate, Lambda Legal tells us. When they applied for recognition of Simone’s U.S. citizenship, however, the U.S. consulate in London rejected their application. Although both men are U.S. citizens, only one of them has a biological connection to Simone.

The State Department chose to disregard the men’s marriage and treat Simone as if she was born out of wedlock, although, as Lambda Legal explains, “The Immigration and Nationality Act [INA] states that children of married U.S. citizens born abroad are U.S. citizens from birth so long as one of their parents has lived in the U.S. at some point.” Despite this, “the State Department routinely denies that right to same-sex couples and their marital children.”

The couple sued the State Department in July 2019 with the help of Lambda Legal, Immigration Equality, and pro bono counsel Morgan Lewis. The court yesterday found that the INA “does not require children to share a biological relationship with both citizen parents in order for those children to acquire citizenship at birth.”

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior counsel and health care strategist at Lambda Legal, said “The agency’s policy was irreconcilable with the law and our Constitution’s guarantee to equality because it treated the children of married, same-sex parents differently from the children of other married parents.”

This past June, another married two-dad couple in Maryland won a similar lawsuit against the Trump administration’s State Department—but the State Department has appealed. It has also appealed a 2019 ruling that found in favor of a married, two-dad family in California trying to secure citizenship for their child. And a two-mom family and their two sons in New Jersey are also still fighting the State Department for their right to be legally recognized as a family. (See more about them in my February 2019 piece.)

Aaron C. Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, said of Mize and Gregg’s victory, “We celebrate the court’s decision, which acknowledges what has been true since the day she was born. Simone Mize-Gregg is a citizen of the United States. Today’s decision in Georgia reaffirms what every other federal court who has heard this issue has held: family means more than biology alone. The State Department should change its discriminatory and unconstitutional policy immediately before it hurts another family.”

Hear, hear.

Making it Easier to Secure Nonbiological Parents’ Rights: Take Action in 3 States

Making it Easier to Secure Nonbiological Parents' Rights: Take Action

Yes, even in Massachusetts, which led the nation in marriage equality, married same-sex couples who use assisted reproduction still need to do lengthy, expensive, and intrusive second-parent adoptions in order for their children to have ironclad legal ties to both parents. A new bill would greatly simplify the process. Bills in New Hampshire and Rhode Island would also streamline the recognition of nonbiological parents—but they all need your support.Crib

It’s true that married same-sex couples who use assisted reproduction in any state may now put both parents’ names on their children’s birth certificates—the U.S. Supreme Court said so. (Indiana wants to change that, but that’s another post.) Birth certificates do not have the legal weight of an adoption or court order of parentage, however, especially across state and national boundaries. Every major LGBTQ legal organization has long advised the nonbiological or nongestational member of such couples to get second-parent adoptions or parentage orders.

Second-parent adoptions (or “confirmatory adoptions,” in newer parlance) in Massachusetts (and most other states), however, cost money (usually two to three thousand dollars) and require an intrusive home study, a court appearance, a background check, a notice to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), a missing children’s register search, and a minimum residency period. Whew. The process cannot be started until the child is born, and then usually take several months, leaving the child vulnerable should something happen to the biological or gestational parent.

Bills currently in the Massachusetts Legislature, H.1485 in the House and the identical S.1013 in the Senate, would remove all of the above burdens and merely require same-sex couples, married or not, to submit some paperwork in order to do a second-parent adoption—no lawyer, court appearance, home study, or any of the other stuff needed. Not only is this easier on the couples, but it reduces the burden on DCF and the courts, thus also reducing the cost to the state. The bills have been voted out of committee; they now need to come to a vote on the floor.

Sarah Prager, a Massachusetts mom (and the author of two great books on LGBTQ history), shared with me her personal experience and why she believes this legislation is so important:

After you’ve wanted to have this child together, figured out conception together, been there through the pregnancy and delivery, cut the cord, been up in the middle of the night, and every single other thing a parent does when their child comes from one of the people in a marriage’s body, adopting that child feels like an insult, as if the child were not already yours. The fact that we have to do it at all is a problem, but as long as we don’t have a biological connection we do have to protect ourselves. The least the state can do is make that process less painful for us by not requiring humiliating home visits, court appearances that require time off of work, or invasive questionnaires. This bill would change the current process to just a few simple, clear forms to be mailed in, which would help families like ours immensely.

My own experience supports this. My spouse and I lived in New Jersey when we started our family via reciprocal IVF (my egg, her womb) nearly two decades ago. I would have had to adopt my own genetic son, but we worked with a lawyer to petition the court for a pre-birth order of parentage. We still had to pay the lawyer and make a court appearance, but we were both legal parents from the moment of birth and avoided both the home study and the absurdity of me having to adopt a child who carries my DNA. Now we live in Massachusetts, and I’m committed to helping improve the process here as well, especially since the state has had second-parent adoptions since 1993. It’s about damn time the process caught up with the reality of our families.

The New Hampshire Legislature also recently passed similar legislation, which provides a simplified second-parent adoption process (and also expands it to include unmarried parents). It awaits Gov. Chris Sununu’s (R) signature; GLAD is urging people to contact him about this.

Simplified processes for recognizing nonbiological/nongestational parents are a growing trend. California has had such a process since 2015 and New Jersey enacted similar legislation earlier this year. Several other states have also enacted slightly different methods for quickly and easily securing a nonbiological/nongestational parent’s rights—California, Vermont, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, and Washington State now offer simple, free Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (VAP) forms that can be filled out at the hospital. (See my longer post about them.) Massachusetts offers these as well, but only for unmarried couples (though another bill now in committee, H. 139, would expand them to married couples).

Legislation pending in Rhode Island could mean VAPs there as well; the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act, H7541, includes them among several updates to parenting laws in the state. It was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee last week and will get floor votes in both Houses on July 16.

If you live in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island, now is the time to take action.

  • In Massachusetts, call or e-mail your state senators and representatives immediately (the legislative session ends July 31) and ask them to support passage of H.1485 and S.1013. Also call Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D; 617.722.1500) and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo (D; 617.722.2500). If you have a compelling personal story, by all means share it. GLAD and MassEquality in a webinar on July 10 also suggested emphasizing increased efficiency (less clogging of the courts; less burden on DCF) and reduced costs—practical considerations that may sway lawmakers. A few other talking points are on this Fact Sheet from GLAD (pdf).
  • In New Hampshire, call Governor Sununu’s office at 603.271.2121 and ask him to sign HB1162.
  • In Rhode Island, call or e-mail your representatives and senators this week, before the vote on Thursday, and ask them to support the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act, H7541. Find a sample letter here.

If you don’t live in these states but have friends or family there, please pass on this information. Follow GLAD Legal Advocates and Defenders for updates on this and other legislation in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and other New England states.

Thanks to Patience Crozier, GLAD senior staff attorney, for providing me with some background for this piece.

Five Years of Marriage Equality, Brought to You in Large Part by Parents

Five Years of Marriage Equality, Brought to You in Large

Five years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that marriage should be open to all couples, no matter their gender—and one of the strongest arguments in the case was the best interests of children. Yet even five years after marriage equality, we are still struggling towards full equality for our families.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion of Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that won marriage equality nationwide:

Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples. This does not mean that the right to marry is less meaningful for those who do not or cannot have children. Precedent protects the right of a married couple not to procreate, so the right to marry cannot be conditioned on the capacity or commitment to procreate.

Marriage equality advocates had worked hard to transform “think of the children” from an argument against marriage for same-sex couples into one for it. Back in 2008, during the Proposition 8 battle in California, marriage equality opponents tried to scare people by saying that marriage equality would require that students learn about homosexuality in schools (as if that were a bad thing). Prop 8 passed, and same-sex couples were blocked from marriage. By 2013, however, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote in Windsor, the case that tore down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): “[DOMA] humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples…. [and] makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.” Variations of that argument were then used to win every other federal decision on marriage equality, except for the one in the 6th Circuit, which ruled against marriage equality and thus precipitated its hearing before the Supreme Court in Obergefell.

Most of the plaintiffs in Obergefell were parents (though not lead plaintiff Jim Obergefell), as I detailed here. Additionally, many children of same-sex parents contributed to the Voices of Children amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in Obergefell, organized by Family Equality Council, COLAGE, and Kentucky youth Kinsey Morrison. Many others spoke out in public forums, in their classrooms, or on the playground to stand up for their families. (The most well-known of these is perhaps Zach Wahls, who in 2011 spoke at an Iowa House hearing about a bill to ban marriage for same-sex couples, and is now an Iowa state senator himself.)

Marriage is an important institution for both practical and symbolic reasons, and the impact of Obergefell was positive and resounding. Marital rights and parental rights have a complicated and not coterminous relationship, though, and nonbiological mothers have had to bring lawsuits in many states, even after Obergefell, in order to gain legal rights to their children and be put on their birth certificates. (A short and probably incomplete list: Arkansas and Arizona, Hawaii, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Indiana.) And just last week, as I recently wrote, Indiana has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to deny the right of married nonbiological mothers in same-sex couples to be put on their children’s birth certificates without second-parent adoptions, thus denying the children the security of having two legal parents from birth. (The Supreme Court has yet to say whether it will take the case.)

Additionally, the U.S. State Department is continuing to deny some children of married same-sex couples equal rights to citizenship—although a federal court last week said they were wrong to do so in one instance.

Furthermore, marriage is not the solution to all of our inequalities. The Supreme Court ruled last week that people cannot be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, which is another huge milestone; yet the Trump administration has also finalized a rule that says health care anti-discrimination protections don’t cover discrimination based on LGBTQ identities. More and more states and the federal government are permitting religiously based discrimination in adoption and foster care. And transgender people continue to face discrimination in many other areas, including military service.

Many LGBTQ rights organizations are pushing for the passage of the Equality Act, which would offer broad protections to LGBTQ people and our children throughout our daily lives. That seems a good idea, but will likely depend heavily on the results of the November election. Even as we look back with pride on the progress we’ve made over the past five years, then, let us also recommit to the work we still need to be doing.