Lately the internet has been abuz with the story of a lesbian couple, Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauer, in Kansas who had a child using the sperm of a male donor, William Marotta, they found on craigslist. Of the two mothers, the one legally the mother of the child is Jennifer Schreiner. (Kansas doesn’t allow Bauer to adopt the children or otherwise officially become a second parent.) Schreiner fell on hard times and applied for Medicaid for the young child, now 3 years old. In her application, she included the name of the man who provided his sperm as the father. The state is now going after Marotta, saying that he has to pay child support for the kid.
Marotta objects to any payment of child support because he signed a contract with the two women relieving him of any financial obligation towards the child. Strangely enough, it seems that in Kansas (and many other states), if a doctor had been involved in the insemination process using Marotta’s sperm, he could legally waive his obligation to parent the child. However, because there was no doctor involved, his waiver of obligation towards the child is invalid.
Would the state of Kansas still try to go after Marotta for child support if the two women were married?
If Kansas recognized that a child could have two mothers, would they still be going after the man who helped them create a child?
Lucy Hallowell, in an article on AfterEllen, suggests that this is a perfect case for why marriage equality and expansion of adoption rights for same-sex couples is important. Her article provides the perspective of a mother raising children with her wife and is worth reading.
Even though many states don’t like same-sex couples raising children, and thus Kansas doesn’t allow Schreiner’s partner Angela Bauer to adopt the children they are raising, that doesn’t stop same-sex couples from raising kids. It only makes things more difficult for them to legally establish themselves as parents to children they raise.
We so often hear cries for supporting families from conservatives who conveniently ignore the reality that same-sex couples are raising kids too. If we really want to support families, we should make it easy for both parents in a same-sex relationship to officially adopt children of the relationship. These couples raising children should also have an option to enter into a legally recognized union to indicate that they are serious about raising a family together.
In California, this story might be a little different because the legislature and courts recognize that, while biology is important, what matters in most cases is that a parent takes the time to raise a child as if that child is her own. This applies equally to men who help women raise children that they did not in fact father as it does to same-sex partners who help raise a child that is only officially the child of their partner. California also has domestic partnerships so a same-sex couple in this position could register their relationship and receive the same benefits and protections as a married couple, at least as far as California is concerned. The Federal Government still does not recognize and support domestic partnerships or same-sex marriages.
For more information about how this works in California, see my post “Lesbian Mothers have the Same Rights.”