Cole's Notes: Lesbian Parents Make Strides

By G, Susan | Herizons, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

Cole's Notes: Lesbian Parents Make Strides


G, Susan, Herizons


Cole's NOTES: Lesbian Parents Make Strides

Look how lesbians are changing the law. Two recent developments -- one in British Columbia and another in Ontario -- indicate that same-sex parents are slowly being recognized.

A recent ruling in a British Columbia human rights case had me thinking I should take up residence in our own Lotusland. The tribunal was responding to a petition from a lesbian couple who, faced with filling the entry about the father of their child, wanted to complete their newborn baby's birth certificate in ways that recognized both morns.

It turns out that heterosexual couples are already allowed to name the male partner of the mother as the father if the baby was conceived with an anonymous sperm donor. Karen Popoff and Bren Murray smelled discrimination and won.

The whole thing took me back 13 years to when my daughter was born. My presence in the delivery room was highly suspect according to some of the nurses, who couldn't figure out who the dazed woman was who trailed them like a terrier wherever they took our baby and certainly had no business lying on the bed beside the new more.

When it came time to fill in the `father' category of the birth certificate form, my partner filled in "Not Applicable," which seemed less distressing than what some women write in -- "father unknown." That seems to me to be a step short of lying -- what is referred to in lawyerly circles as `a legal fiction.' We also had to wait until six months after our daughter was born before we could file an expensive adoption claim.

The B.C. case is important for a number of reasons. First of all, same-sex couples can establish their status from the day of a child's birth and without the costly adoption process. And it means that same-sex couples no longer have to wait until that adoption process goes through before a non-biological parent can apply for parental leave.

Second, it turns these sections of the Vital Statistics Act into a social record of a birth and not the biological record, as it pretended to do previously. It was always a big scam, it seemed, designed to reinforce the virility of the social father in the case of an anonymous donor, or to protect his honour in the case of a wayward wife. According to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, if straight couples can claim parenthood when the connection is not biological, then so can same-sex couples.

According to Joanne Radbord, a lesbian lawyer in Toronto, the decision itself does not automatically set a precedent, but it is helpful to have another jurisdiction say yes to same-sex couples.

In Manitoba, a provincially-appointed Review Panel on Common Law Relationships has been looking at extending rights to same-sex couples in three areas: adoption rights, marital property issues and conflict of interest legislation. …

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