What makes a parent? Is it biology? Is it care? Is it money? Is it love?
Perhaps, it’s all and some of the above. Parents have taken on many roles and responsibilities in unusual circumstances. But primarily, parents are caretakers or human beings that give life.
There are lesbian couples in the United States struggling to be recognized as the legal parents of their natural born children. Using the aid of sperm donors, one partner carries the child, but both make the decision to be parents, jointly taking on all of the responsibilities of raising a child from birth.
It’s no secret that sperm donors are exempt from total responsibility of any children that result from their donation. Thus, it’s interesting that federal legislation only allows heterosexual couples to put their names on the birth certificate of a child created by anonymous donor insemination. But a non-biological lesbian mother, unlike a non-biological heterosexual father, has to struggle for recognition.
According to U.S. federal family legislation, marriage is still defined as between man and woman, thus providing ammunition for certain states to discriminate against LGBT couples and insert prejudices into birth certificate laws. As the model of the American family has evolved, the law should accommodate the joint acknowledgement of couples willingly accepting the accountability of parenthood, as one partner carries the child.
It’s unfair to give heterosexual couples in the same predicament certain privileges just because of their sexual orientation. And how disrespectful for any parent to be denied the right to birth certificate recognition, when they were in the room to cut the umbilical cord of their child.
Some states argue that two women can’t be listed on a birth certificate, since it is impossible for one to establish the “paternity” of a child. But of the states that recognize civil unions, only Iowa prohibits two women from being listed as parents on a child’s birth certificate, except if the child is adopted. Married lesbian couple Melissa and Heather Gartner (pictured at the top) is suing the Iowa Department of Public Health for refusing to list both of their names on the birth certificate of their daughter, Mackenzie, in 2009. The ruling on the case is pending.
Many heterosexual couples take for granted the power of having two parents on a birth certificate. Birth certificates are necessary for obtaining government benefits, insurance, travel, determining child support, and parental legislative rights.
When Mackenzie Gartner came down with a respiratory virus, Heather Gartner could not leave her daughter’s side in fear of doctors not allowing her partner, Melissa, to make medical decisions. What parent wants to experience that turmoil? Or feeling of helplessness in deciding the fate of their child?
A parent is a parent, regardless of sexual orientation. And while biology is certainly a factor in the creation of life, it is not the only characteristic that should grant certain rights to a parent from the point of a child’s birth. There’s more to parenting than pregnancy and sperm.
In the United Kingdom, lesbian parents were granted the right to have both of their names on a child’s birth certificate in 2009. Featured in Trace magazine, Margarita Sanchez de Leon and Frida Kruijt were one of the first lesbian parents to have their names on their children’s birth certificates, pictured with them above.
The struggle of lesbian parents brings into question the limits of democracy, and how long heterosexual couples will receive certain rights denied to their same-sex counterparts.
Gay rights are bigger than gay marriage. It’s a battle against consistent human rights discrepancies.
When will the United States wake up?