While gay marriage is in limbo in California, unconventional families in the nation’s most populous state have an ally in State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).
A bill introduced by Leno—SB1476—would allow courts to legally declare a child has more than two parents. The bill would apply equally to men and women and heterosexual and homosexual relationships. The bill has already passed the Senate and is moving through the Assembly.
“The bill brings California into the 21st century, recognizing that there are more than ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ families today,” Leno told the Sacramento Bee. Leno said he realized there was a problem when, in 2011, a court placed a girl in foster care when her two legally married parents, a lesbian couple, could no longer care for her. The girl was taken into state custody when her biological mother was incarcerated and her non-biological mother was hospitalized.
The girl had a relationship with her biological father, but the court was unable to grant him custody, even though the child would have clearly been better off with him.
“We are not touching the definition of a parent under the current law,” said Leno. “When a judge recognizes that a child is likely to find his or her way into foster care and if there is an existing parent who qualifies as a legal parent, why not have the law when it is required to protect the well-being of the child?”
SB1476 would give courts the authority to protect the relationships a child may have with more than two parents. Under current law, a parent can be a man who signs an acknowledgement of paternity, or who took a baby into his home and represented the child as his own. The proposed bill would expand the number of situations a parent could qualify.
In addition to GLBT families, this bill would also protect non-biological step-parents, adoptive families where the child knows the biological parent, and other unconventional family dynamics. The bill does not force judges to recognize additional parents; it merely allows them to discretion to acknowledge more than two parents when deemed appropriate. The parents would still have to legally qualify.
For GLBT families, this law could make the difference between a child going into state care or not. It likely would have prevented what happened in 2011 to inspire Leno in the first place. For poly families, a bill like SB1476 would provide some protection to the non-biological parents. My own family is an excellent example. Among the four of us, the married couple are both female. I’m the biological father of our first child. His two mothers are on his birth certificate. The non-biological father is the primary earner of our household. A law like this in our home state would give all of us a little more protection.
What do Good Men Project readers think? Is this bill a good idea? Do you agree with Leno or not? Will SB1476 protect unconventional families or is it part of the “slippery slope” as Rush Limbaugh recently argued on air?