In the midst of some of the big discussions around same-sex marriage laws, a new legislative proposal in the state of California in US challenges some of the traditional perceptions of family and parentage. If the new bill (which is currently being fast tracked through the state legislature) is passed, Californian children could potentially have more than 2 legally recognised parents.
If passed, the California state courts would recognise parenting claims for more dynamic family arrangements, for example where a same-sex couple asks a friend or third party to help them conceive a child.
The bill has been championed by local State Senator Mark Leno who told news sources that “The bill brings California into the 21st century, recognising that there are more than Ozzie and Harriet families today.”
Leno cited examples of cases in four other US states that have recognised more than two parents for a child. In the state of Pennsylvania, for example the Court upheld an award of primary custody to a biological mother’s same-sex partner, with partial custody to the biological mother and sperm donor, who had been involved as a parent since infancy.
If passed, it’s worthwhile noting that the new law would not change the definition of parents but simply remove the existing limitation that a child can only have two parents.
What is the situation in Australia?
Australian law currently only recognises two parents for any child, but the question has been raised in the Family Courts. For example, in 2009, a gay couple sought custodial access to a girl that they were not biologically connected to. It resulting in the mother being restrained from relocating the child to another state.
Meanwhile, a recent NSW landmark case saw a same-sex couple winning the right to be listed as the legal parents of a child’s birth certificate. This was the first ruling of its kind since The Surrogacy Act was passed in 2010. The issue of more than 2 parents has been discussed in news media and amongst academic circles. Currently, surrogacy laws for same-sex couples are determined on a state by state basis.
Can a child have more than two parents? Do you think the make-up of the modern family changes the legal perception of parental rights?