Despite the fact that about 2 million children are being raised by LGBT parents in the United States, those children don’t always have legal relationships to the parental figures who care for them. State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) is seeking to partially address the issue of parental rights by amending California’s current two-parents-per-child law to allow judges to recognize multiple parents in the cases where it would best serve the children.
Ed Howard, the senior counsel for the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, told the Associated Press that SB 1476 is ultimately designed with the best interest of today’s children in mind:
HOWARD: It’s not us who have changed the nature of families; families have done it on their own. It is cruel to prevent judges from ruling a way that protects kids in favor of an abstraction of what a family used to look like.
Leno believes that his bill “brings California into the 21st century” by recognizing that — thanks to adoption, surrogacy, and remarriages — modern families now take on many different forms in addition to the traditional two-parent household. For example, under the proposed bill, a lesbian couple who conceived a child with the help of a sperm donor could list the child’s biological father as a legal parent if he remained an active presence in the child’s life.
SB 1476, which has already passed the state senate and is now making its way through the Assembly Appropriations Committee, was inspired by a 2011 court case in which the state took custody of a young girl after her two mothers were unable to care for her. The appellate court ruled that the girl’s biological father did not count as a third legal guardian under California’s existing law.
Despite conservative criticism that the bill would dole out parental status at random, Leno maintains that all parents would have to meet the state’s existing standards for legal parenthood under his bill.