Recently, I testified in front of Connecticut lawmakers in support of the Connecticut Parentage Act, a bill that would reform the state’s outdated and unconstitutional parentage laws —laws that determine children’s legal relationships with their parents. The Connecticut Parentage Act would provide children, including those born to LGBTQ parents, with equal access to parentage.
I am one of those children. Twenty-five years ago, my fathers persevered in the face of laws that deemed them unfit to be parents; for ten years, they fought tirelessly to have me. They braved shut doors, slurs, and a hostile legal system, because they knew their dearest wish in life was to love and care for a child. Just when they were about to give up, surrogacy offered them a path to parenthood, and I was born. In 1996, I was one of the first children in this country born to two gay men through assisted reproduction.
At birth I was not the legal child of one of my fathers because he was not my genetic father. For over a year, my parents endured a grueling legal process to secure my relationship to both of my fathers. During that time, the woman who acted as the surrogate was treated by law as my parent, and one of my fathers was deprived of all rights to custody and decision-making authority. If something happened to my legal father, my other dad would have had no right to make decisions for me and could have even lost custody. Today, a quarter century later, many states still do not provide the children of LGBTQ couples equal access to secure parentage.
Connecticut is one of the states that still discriminates against LGBTQ parents. Because of a Connecticut Supreme Court decision from 2011, a gay couple can now secure parentage in court when they have a child through surrogacy. But other families who have children through assisted reproduction in Connecticut are not so lucky. For example, if two women in an unmarried couple have a child conceived with donor sperm, only the birth mother is treated as a legal parent —even if they both intend to be the child’s parents and raise the child together.
Due to deficits in Connecticut parentage law, many children of LGBTQ parents experience the legal uncertainty that I did. Many still confront the fear that they could be separated from their parents in the case of conflict or tragedy, and must live with the possibility that in an emergency, one of their parents would not be able to make decisions for them. Connecticut law as it stands deprives children of legal protections and stigmatizes families like mine. It relegates loving parents to legal strangers and erects legal obstacles for prospective parents.
Parentage laws that systematically exclude same-sex couples broadcast to the world that children like me do not belong. When I was growing up, laws like Connecticut’s gave credence to schoolyard bullying and kindled my own insecurities; at times, I felt ashamed.
Even though the law and all its authority did not recognize both my dads as parents, my fathers’ love and commitment showed me every day that the law can be wrong. Today, thousands of Connecticut LGBTQ families prove that the state’s law is mistaken about their families, too. Families like mine should not be excluded from the protections of the law –and parents like mine deserve to be treated as parents in every sense.
If our state enacts the Connecticut Parentage Act, others won’t have to face the legal obstacles that my family did. On March 29, the Judiciary Committee passed the parentage bill out of committee on consent, and on April 27 the house passed the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. It now moves to a vote in the senate. The families whom this law protects are simply asking to be allowed to participate as equals in perhaps the oldest and happiest activity: to care for and love their own children.
Malina Simard-Halm is a first-year student at Yale Law School and an advocate with COLAGE, an organization dedicated to empowering children raised by LGBTQ parents and/or caretakers.