When someone has a baby, the usual fears are making sure the home is baby-proof, worrying how pets will react to a new member of the family, and when the baby will sleep through the night, but for LGBTQ+ families, and other families who took a nontraditional path to parenthood, they have the added fear of their legal parentage over their children not being recognized by the state. Legal parentage is the backbone from which all legal rights and responsibilities stem from between children and parents. The right to make medical decisions, child support, health insurance, having parentage acknowledged by other states, and custody all flow from legal parentage. Without it, all the aspects of parenthood that most people consider basic rights are taken away, leaving that family vulnerable.
To protect these rights currently LGBTQ+ families, and other families who have children through surrogacy or assisted reproductive technology, are having to jump through humiliating and expensive legal hoops. Children who are born to a loving and secure family must be formally adopted by that family to have that parentage recognized by the state. Not only can this process cost thousands of dollars families may not have, it also can be incredibly invasive in what it requires. Clerks have been known to require proof that the child in question was not a product of an extramarital affair, a slap in the face for families who already disclosed deeply personal information about how their child was conceived though groundbreaking medical technology. Further, the process of adoption can take at least six months to complete, leaving brand new parents extremely vulnerable to the legal system.
The hurdle of legal adoption is only available to people with the funds and the knowledge of the system. Many parents do not know where to start when it comes to establishing legal parentage, leaving them even more vulnerable and scared. The law is so murky that even the courts have petitioned state legislators to create a clear and uniform way of establishing legal parentage.
In a recent interview with NBC10 Boston that our own Attorney Annika Bockius-Suwyn participated in, GLAD Attorney Patience Crozier told a harrowing story of how a child conceived by assisted reproductive technology was taken away from their parents and held in foster care for two years just because the child’s parents had not established legal parentage. This is the fear LGBTQ+ parents live with every day. Watch the full video here. We need legislation to clear up the ambiguities in the law and make sure that every child has a route to legal parentage.
The Massachusetts Parentage Act will make sure that every child has a path to parentage no matter their background. It will clearly and uniformly dictate the different paths people can take to become parents and will lay out how to secure legal parentage for each of those different paths. Ambiguity and fear shroud the legal parentage laws today, but the Massachusetts Parentage Act will provide a set path and peace of mind for families all over the Commonwealth. We urge you to reach out to your state senators and state representatives to push the Massachusetts Parentage Act into law. If enough of us push the legislature, our voices will be too loud for them to ignore. Every other state in New England has passed some similar form of legislation; do not let Massachusetts fall behind. Massachusetts has led the way in affirming LGBTQ+ identities and making sure their communities are legally protected, but this giant gap in legislation shows that there is still work to be done to ensure that Massachusetts remains a beacon of hope for the rest of the county.