Monday, August 29, 2005

California Trifecta

Still catching up on news during the vacation...

Last Monday, the California Supreme Court pleased gay-rights advocates and infuriated their counterparts in the shadows. It became the first court in the nation to rule –– in three cases –– that homosexual couples who plan and raise a family together have the same responsibilities and rights as straight parents following a breakup.

It is a plain, common-sense ruling but must have single-handedly increased the national stammering rate among conservatives by a factor of five.

Writing for the majority, Justice Carlos Moreno concluded, "We perceive no reason why both parents of a child cannot be women."

All three cases are similar. The lead case, Elisa B. vs. Superior Court, S125912, illustrates the issues. Not surprisingly to most of us, they are not so different than you would expect in any other child-support dispute. As the San Francisco Chronicle's article recapped it:
(P)artners Elisa B. and Emily B. had children in 1997 and 1998, respectively, using the same sperm donor, and raised them together before separating in 1999. Elisa agreed to provide financial support whenever she could for her stay-at-home partner's twins -- one of them seriously ill -- but stopped making payments 18 months after the couple separated.

Reversing a lower-court ruling, the Supreme Court said Elisa was a legal parent of the children she had helped to plan and raise, and must pay $1,815 a month in child support. El Dorado County sued Elisa for support after Emily applied for welfare.

"We were doing everything we possibly could to form a family,'' Emily B. said at a news conference after the ruling. Noting that children of an opposite-sex couple would clearly have been entitled to support in the same situation, she said the court recognized the needs of "children who were invisible.''
Note: You can review the particulars of all three cases at the California Supreme Court site. The other two cases are Kristine H. vs. Lisa R. (S126945); and K.M. vs. E.G. (S125643).

What has blown away the anti-homosexual people is how clearly the court defined the issues and decisions on what is right for the children involved and how the nature of parental obligations do not depend on one-man/one-woman think.

The Los Angeles Times coverage had a few predictable quotes:
By contrast, Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, which opposes gay marriage, said the court's position "goes against nature."

"Despite junk science and frustrating rulings like this, children still need a mother and a father," Thomasson said. "A child does not have two mommies or two daddies; a child comes into this world because she has a mother who gave her egg and a father who gave his sperm."

The court's stand "ignores the self-evident truth that God designed a man and a woman to fit together and participate in the miracle of procreation," he said.
Likewise, the ever indignant Matt Staver of the (ironically located in the Sunshine State) Liberty Counsel let a press release escape from his law firm. It concludes:
Today'’s ruling defies logic and common sense. By saying that children can have two moms, the court has undermined the family. This ruling establishes a policy that essentially says moms and dads are mere surplus. Thousands of studies conclude that children need moms and dads, not two moms and two dads, but one of each. Gender does matter to children. Today'’s ruling underscores the importance of amending California'’s constitution to preserve marriage as one man and one woman. The people of California will not put up with such nonsense.
So much for children and families. The anti types would gladly sacrifice the welfare of the kids for their increasingly narrow point of theocracy.

Previous to these cases, California's highest court waffled related issues. For example, it had ruled in 1993 that for legal purposes, a child can have only one natural mother. Meanwhile, surrogate parenting, artificial insemination, domestic partnerships and various gay couplings brought new ingredients to the suit pot.

Referring to the 1993 decision, the court noted that it was meant to resolve claims between a surrogate parent and the woman who signed the contract to have her deliver a child. This did not anticipate nor preclude lesbian parents.

The court was unanimous on two similar cases requiring post-breakup child support. You plan the child, you claim to be the parent, you start raising `em, and you are responsible for your share of the bills. Period.

In the third case, it split 4 to 2. As the Chronicle summarized this one:
...Kim M., donated eggs to her partner that were fertilized by an anonymous donor and resulted in the birth of twin girls in December 1995. The couple raised the children together for more than five years before separating. The birth mother, E.G., then took the twins to Massachusetts, and Kim M. sued for parental rights.

A state appeals court ruled last year that E.G. was the girls' sole parent, noting that Kim M. had signed a prenatal agreement waiving parental rights. But the Supreme Court majority said the agreement -- which Kim M. claimed she signed under pressure -- was not binding because Kim M. was a biological parent and because the partners had always intended to raise the children together.

In dissent, Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar said the ruling disregards the partners' intentions, violates E.G.'s right to choose to be a single parent and calls into question the validity of many pre-birth agreements. One member of a couple who donates eggs to her partner may now be regarded as a parent in the future regardless of her intentions, Werdegar said.

E.G.'s lawyer, Diana Richmond, said the ruling jeopardizes sperm donors as well as egg donors. "It foists responsibility on people who weren't really willing to commit to be parents,'' she said.
The decisions dovetail nicely with California's domestic partnerships. Of course, in all of the nations and the state where same-sex marriage is legal, this kind of ruling is unnecessary. Parents pay to play.

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