Whenever the anti-marriage equality people are "explaining" why a class of adults should be prevented from marrying, the topic of children comes up. Sometimes the argument, like we have seen with Prop. 8 in California, is that the children will have to be taught that couples who share a gender can marry (the horror!!). Sometimes the argument is that the only valid purpose of a marriage is to have and legitimate children. Sometimes the argument is that same-sex couples are less able to parent a child...despite a complete lack of information supporting this thesis. What all of these arguments fail to consider is that same-sex couples do have children, even under the current laws. What about those children? Join me across the fold for a discussion of the real world consequences for those children.
Let me tell you a story. This story is about Mary and Jane (while the names are made up, the story is not)...two lesbians who met, fell in love and committed their lives to each other in my home state of Kentucky. After several years together, the ladies decided that they were ready to start a family. They decided that Mary would carry the child. So that Jane would feel like a part of her was being passed on to the child, they selected a sperm donor who shared several traits with Jane. They went to doctor's appointments together, smiled over ultrasound pictures and decorated the nursery together. Their son, lets call him Ben, was born and life continued to be blissfully happy.
Until it wasn't. A few years after Ben was born, the couple broke up. Jane moved out. Even then, these women wanted to do what was best for Ben, so Jane hired an attorney to prepare a contract that would allow her to adopt Ben as a "second parent." Mary was agreeable and signed the contract. Jane's attorney used the contract to institute adoption proceedings which would give her visitation rights to Ben and would also require her to contribute to Ben's support. Mary and Jane lived in a very progressive county and, despite the marriage amendment in the constitution, the judge approved the adoption. Ben continued to live with Mary but had liberal visitation with and support from Jane.
Unfortunately, as happens with so many divorces, things turned ugly as Mary and Jane began to move on with their lives. Mary filed suit to prevent Jane from having any visitation with Ben and to have the adoption declared invalid. The state Court of Appeals found that the family court had made a mistake in treating Jane like a step parent to Ben. This mattered because an adoption terminates the rights of the biological parent unless the one adopting the child is a step parent. So, by trying to secure her child's future, Mary had severed her rights to her biological child.
Fortunately for Ben (and Mary), the Court used the length of time before the issue was brought to it to justify not enforcing this rule. But, it made me wonder what practical effect the state's failure to recognize a marriage has on the children of same-sex couples. So, here is an abbreviated list:
- The child may be prevented from seeing the non-biological parent;
- The child is denied child support because there is no biological relationship;
- The child cannot be the beneficiary of the non-biological parent's life insurance policy as the child has no legally recognized interest in the non-biological parent's life;
- The child cannot be put on the non-biological parent's health insurance for the same reason;
- If the non-biological parent leaves his or her estate to the child, the family of the non-biological parent can have the will overturned;
- The child may be excluded from the non-biological parent's hospital room in the event of an emergency.
UPDATE- check out this wonderful no on 8 ad featuring the CA Superintendant of Schools: