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Connecticut Looks To Ensure Parentage Rights For LGBTQ Couples

Image by SatyaPrem from Pixabay

Connecticut lawmakers will consider a bill that would extend parental status to non-biological, unmarried and same sex couples for the children under their care.

Proponents told the state judiciary committee that the Connecticut Parentage Act would fill the gaps in the existing state law and ensure equal protection for these nontraditional parents to have custody, parenting time, and legal and medical decision making. It also ensures that children are connected to their parents' healthcare.

Advocates argue that the current law is outdated and unconstitutional.

“Even though I was not legally the child of one of my fathers, even though many treated us with disgust and disdain, I am certain that my life and the moment I was born has brought my fathers deep and abiding joy,” said Malina Simard-Halm, a New Haven resident and member of LGBTQ+ family advocacy organization COLAGE. “And because of my dads, I have grown up in a family that has shown me the meaning of love, that supported me so much that now I am lucky enough to be here advocating so that people don’t have to go through what they did.”

On Monday, state lawmakers on the judiciary committee heard testimony from Simard-Halm and other advocates for the bill, including members of non-traditional families, doctors, lawmakers, lawyers and nonprofit organizations. 

Simard-Halm said her fathers used a surrogate mother to have her and fought through what she described as a “hostile legal system” to raise her.

“Exclusive parentage law sends a message that children like me do not belong,” she said. “When I was growing up, laws like Connecticut’s gave authority to the schoolyard bullying and kindled my own insecurities. At times, it led me to feel ashamed of the people who loved me and fought for me the most,” she said.

Douglas NeJaime, a professor of family and constitutional law at Yale Law School, helped draft the bill and has pushed for its passage since it was introduced in 2019.

“The Connecticut Parentage Act solves the problems in our parentage law,” NeJaime said. “It satisfies constitutional requirements. It reflects the diversity of families in our state. It protects children who are vulnerable under current law. It brings order to an area where there is uncertainty. It updates law that is outdated and it reflects best practices.”

A 2019 version of the bill was reintroduced this year with input and revisions from state courts and agencies.

The bill extends the recognition of parental status to people using assisted reproduction without needing to go through the process of second parent adoption, too. Connecticut is the only state in New England without these protections or clear paths to parentage for non-biological parents.

The legislation is also supported by family law firms and groups.

“The current family law statutes are antiquated in the view of parentage, basing parentage solely on marital status or a heterosexual relationship,” said attorney Mark Randall on behalf of the Connecticut Bar Association’s family law section. “This does not provide the adequate legal protections and rights that all families in Connecticut should be afforded."

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said that the law is a “no brainer.”

“Connecticut is very clear; it’s civil rights law is very clear that we protect all people from discrimination, including people in the LGBTQ+ community,” Tong said. “Connecticut’s laws relating to parenting and parentage and parental rights are not up to date and do not conform with those laws, and do not recognize the great diversity of families that we have across connecticut, including same sex couples.”