I gave birth to my daughter June under tough circumstances. She was born at 29 weeks, weighing 2lbs 3oz. The last thing I said before I went under general anesthesia after she was born was “is she alive?” She was, and she continues to be a blessing to her family. While Junie was a gift from the moment she was born, during her first hours she was in legal limbo. I was unconscious and her other mom, Hillary, had no recognized rights to the baby she planned for and loved. Hillary was able to hold our tiny baby in the NICU, only because the NICU staff gave consent. Officially Hillary was a legal stranger to June and could not make any medical decisions on her behalf. That was a deeply distressing situation for new parents already experiencing the emotional roller coaster of the NICU.
But that was back before marriage equality. I assumed that in 2019 in a state like Rhode Island, the protections for LGBTQ parents would be clear and the process for declaring ourselves parents would be simple. I was wrong.
Did you know that in Rhode Island, LGBTQ parents need to spend a minimum of 6 months and several thousand dollars to secure their rights to their children? That Rhode Island’s laws related to parentage haven’t been updated since 1979? That in some cases the state cannot pursue child support if LGBT parents fail to voluntarily meet their obligations to their children? That LGBTQ parents using anonymous sperm donors must advertise for the “father” of their child and go to court to see if any man shows up seeking to claim their child in response to that ad?
If you were at the House or Senate hearings for bills S0789/H5707 The Rhode Island Parentage Act this spring, you heard frustrating, humiliating, and tearful stories from parents (as well as many crying and cooing babies). And, this was happening in Rhode Island, as state where most people are supportive of LGBTQ rights, and many additional people think that you should live and let live and not persecute your neighbors.
- Rhode Island’s parentage law hurts some families, the Uniform Parentage Act will remedy that
- General Assembly considers updating Rhode Island’s out-of-date parentage laws
- Parents and advocates urge House Speaker to pass H5707 to modernize outdated parentage laws
The good news in our state is that bills S0789/H5707 would provide a comprehensive legislative fix Rhode Island’s discriminatory parentage laws. The current bills are based on the Uniform Parentage Act legislation drafted by the Uniform Law Commission, an organization that “provides states with non-partisan, well-conceived and well-drafted legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law.” Similar legislation has already passed in several states and has been introduced in many more. This is strong legislation, which would clarify the paths to parentage for all Rhode Island parents, and ensure that families can enjoy their new babies without thousands of dollars in legal fees and multiple trips to the courthouse.
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Earlier this month, S0789 passed the Rhode Island Senate with no opposition. But, what about the House? Despite the support of the House Judiciary Committee and seemly broad support in the House, it looks like H5707 may not be brought before the House for a vote. So why is a strong, well-written bill, with widespread support, that would provide much needed clarity for Rhode Island parents, not being introduced? That is a question that we need you to ask House leadership.
Time is running short, please call Speaker Nicholas Mattiello today and ask him to bring H5707, The Rhode Island Parentage Act, for a vote before the end of the legislative session. You can reach the speaker at:
Office Phone: (401)222-2466
State House, Room 323, 82 Smith St., Providence, RI, 02903
And reach out to your Representative and let them know that this legislation needs to come to a vote!