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Do Children Need More than Two Legal Parents? California Considers ‘Multiple Parenting Law

SB1476

How many parents does one child need?

State Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco has proposed a bill that would allow children to be legally granted more than two parents, according to ABC News (via the Sacramento Bee).

SB1476 has already passed the Senate and will soon be voted on in the Assembly. If it goes into law, it could apply to all parents, regardless of sexual orientation.

Leno said the evolving American family requires the expansion of who can be considered parents, given the increasing pervasiveness of multiple reproductive techniques as well as same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships.

He told ABCNews.com that “he recognized a ‘problem’ in the legal system in 2011 when an appellate court placed a girl in foster care when her legally married parents — two lesbians — could not care for her” after one was hospitalized and the other was jailed.

The girl had a relationship with her biological father, but the court didn’t have the authority to grant him custody since he wasn’t a legal parent.

“We are not touching the definition of a parent under the current law,” said Leno to ABCNews.com. “When a judge recognizes that a child is likely to find his or her way into foster care and if there is an existing parent who qualifies as a legal parent, why not have the law when it is required to protect the well-being of the child?”

Leno argues in many situations children may benefit from having a “legally protected relationship with all of the parental figures in his or her life” — which takes into consideration divorced and re-married parents in addition to adoptive families, same-sex couples and children born via surrogates, sperm and egg donors. The advantages include additional financial support, health insurance and other potential state benefits.

Not surprisingly, some conservative groups are against the bill, arguing what it would really do is “give adults legal protection to create ‘radical families.’” Others argue the law would apply to a very narrow margin of the population and would actually be to the detriment of some families engaging in the open adoption process. Some legal experts also have concerns have the impact on issues like tax deductions and wrongful death suits.

If the bill becomes law, California would join other several other states in recognizing more than two parents.

Photo credit: iStock

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