Tag: Update

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.

Connecticut Flag

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.

Queer Parents and Advocates Testify to Update Connecticut Parentage Laws

Queer Parents and Advocates Testify to Update Connecticut Parentage Laws

Connecticut remains the only New England state that leaves children born to non-biological, non-marital parents wholly unprotected in its parentage laws. Queer parents, legal and medical experts, advocates, and others testified today in support of a bill that would change that.

Connecticut Flag

Why Connecticut Parentage Laws Need Updating

Current Connecticut parentage laws treat unmarried, nonbiological parents as legal strangers to their children. They also do not recognize the genetic parent as a legal parent in same-sex couples who use reciprocal IVF (one person’s egg, carried in the other’s womb) without an adoption or court order, and do not offer clear protections to all involved in the surrogacy process.

The Connecticut Parentage Act (CPA; HB 6321) would give nonbiological, unmarried, and same-sex parents clear ways to establish their parentage; set standards to protect parents, child, and surrogate in families formed through surrogacy: and remove gender-specific language from the parentage laws. The CPA, like similar parentage legislation in several other states, is based on model legislation by the Uniform Law Commission, a non-partisan body of state lawmakers, judges, scholars, and lawyers. Last year, a similar bill had a favorable hearing before the Joint Judiciary Committee—four days before the session shut down because of COVID-19. Today, in a new hearing via Zoom, the committee considered this latest attempt to modernize the state’s parentage laws.

Professor Douglas NeJaime of Yale Law School (and also a queer dad), who has led efforts to pass the bill, told the committee that Connecticut was “an extreme outlier” among neighboring states, as all other New England states plus New York have updated their parentage laws to better protect all families. “We know that children do best when their relationships to their parents are legally recognized and secure,” he said. “Yet many children in Connecticut are deprived of that security.”

GLAD Senior Staff Attorney Patience Crozier, who was formerly a family law attorney and is also a nonbiological parent, testified that, “Nothing is more foundational for a child than the security of the parent-child relationship.” She added, “The status quo leaves children truly vulnerable, and this is particularly true for children of LGBTQ parents.” She noted that Connecticut has the second-highest rate of births through assisted reproduction in the country, along with a history of leadership on LGBTQ issues, but current law means that “children are unable to be protected in their most precious relationships.”

Hugh Taylor, chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine and president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, put it succinctly: “Connecticut laws do not reflect the ways we build families today.”

Acknowledgements of Parentage

Birth certificates are evidence of parentage, but they do not establish parentage.

Among other provisions, the CPA would allow both married and unmarried same-sex couples, like different-sex couples, to file a simple Acknowledgement 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. NeJaime asserted that under federal law, “the Acknowledgements of Parentage is required to get full faith and credit from other states. That is why same-sex couples in our state would no longer need to adopt their own children.” He explained that while married same-sex couples can both be put on their children’s birth certificates, “birth certificates are evidence of parentage, but they do not establish parentage,” and so they do not get full faith and credit from other states.  (This is why even married same-sex couples have long been advised to do second-parent adoptions even if both parents are on the birth certificate. An Acknowledgement of Parentage form would in theory alleviate the need for second-parent adoptions—but for more about them, see my piece from last August.)

The Impact on Real Families

We are real people and we are here.

The most powerful testimonies of the hearing came from Connecticut queer parents and their children. Stephanie Ocasio-Gonzalez, who is raising a son and daughter with her wife, said she works in the medical field, and COVID-19 has heightened her fears about what would happen to her children if something happened to her, the biological mother. Her wife is on the birth certificate, but that might not always be recognized as proof of parentage. Their son is hers from a previous relationship, but her wife has no legal connection to him, even though the birth father has no part in his life. The CPA would not only secure her wife’s relationship with their daughter, but would provide a process by which she would be legally seen as a de facto parent to their son. “We are real people and we are here,” she told the committee. “Our children’s lives and well-being are the most important thing to us.”

Ashley Taylor, a police officer in Bridgeport, is expecting a child with her fiancée Adriana, after several attempts and a miscarriage. It’s “unbelievably stressful and exhausting” to go through the process of assisted reproduction, she said, and COVID-19 has made her even more fearful about their child having only one legal parent. While they plan to marry, she stated that they shouldn’t have to do so in order to both be legal parents. The CPA, however, would allow them to file a simple form to establish Adriana’s parentage from day one. As police officers, she said, they put their lives on the line to keep their communities safe, and “All that we ask in return is that Connecticut law recognizes our family as legitimate and deserving of respect as any other family.”

Exclusive parentage law sends a message that children like me do not belong.

Malina Simard-Halm, a member of COLAGE, the national organization for those with LGBTQ parents, testified that 25 years ago, “my dads persevered in the face of laws that saw them as unfit to be parents.” When she was born, the men had to go through “a grueling legal process” to give her the protection of both parents. Nevertheless, she said, “Because of my dads, I have grown up in a family that has shown me the meaning of love.” She spoke of the fears that many children now live with if they do not have legal ties to both parents—that they could be separated from a parent in the case of conflict or tragedy, and that in an emergency, the parent could not be there to make decisions for them. “Exclusive parentage law sends a message that children like me do not belong,” she asserted. “The families whom this law protects are not asking for special treatment…. They’re asking to be allowed to participate as equals in perhaps the oldest and happiest activity: to care for and love their own children.”

Emily Pagano and Rachel Prehodka-Spindel spoke with the committee as their toddler sat (or rather, squirmed) with them. They used reciprocal IVF, but Emily is the child’s only legal parent. Rachel is now pregnant and due in June with twins also conceived through RIVF; she will be their only legal parent when they are born, and Emily will not be able to add them to her health insurance. Senator Alex Kasser, one of the bill’s sponsors, told them after their testimony that hopefully the law would pass before the children’s birth in June.

Several other parents, legal experts, and reproductive medicine professionals also testified for the bill, as did Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. Tong told the committee that he thought it was a “no-brainer” and opined, “I think it’s required by law.” Connecticut’s parentage laws are not up to date and “do not conform” with the state’s civil rights laws protecting LGBTQ people and others, he explained.

That’s a strong endorsement—but a lot of effort is still needed to get the bill passed by the full legislature and signed by the governor. To learn how you can help, visit the website of the We Care Coalition that is spearheading the effort for its passage.

Update on my finished pulp novel tattoo!! Couldn’t be happier with it 💙🏳️‍🌈 : actuallesbians

Update on my finished pulp novel tattoo!! Couldn’t be happier

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