A new California bill proposed by Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco would allow a child to have more than two legal parents. Designed to benefit modern households such as gay couples, surrogacy arrangements, step-parents, adoptive parents, and folks using reproductive techniques that involve multiple people, the bill’s goal is to make the lives of children easier.
Senator Leno first witnessed a shortcoming in the laws when, in 2011, he saw a young girl end up in foster care when her two mothers (her legally married parents) could not care for her. Although the girl had a relationship with her biological father, the court did not have the authority to appoint him as a legal parent.
A bill like this could potentially benefit poly folks. Anne at Life on the Swingset says:
For poly families, this would be a move towards greater legal recognition and protection . . .
Even if the bill passes (and that’s probably a big if), legal parenthood for multiple parents is still at the discretion of the court. That means that poly families trying to ensure that all parents are legally recognized as such may still face discrimination and skepticism while trying to convince a judge that all three (or four or whatever) of them should be considered parents to the children in the household. The designation of multiple parents can only be done if it is determined to be in the child’s best interests. It’s far from a simple and straightforward process. But for it to be possible at all would be an exciting step forward.
Opponents say this bill will only encourage “radical” and “experimental” family structures — which, of course, according to them, do not benefit children.
The bill has passed the Senate and is now awaiting an Assembly vote.