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First LGBTQ+ Families Secure Parentage Protections as Landmark Connecticut Parentage Act Takes Effect

Today the first LGBTQ+ parents in Connecticut signed Acknowledgments of Parentage to secure equal legal protections for their children and families. Federal law requires states to provide a simple civil process for acknowledging parentage upon the birth of a child, the Acknowledgment of Parentage program. Properly executed, an Acknowledgment of Parentage has the binding force of a court order and should be treated as valid recognition of parentage in all states. Until the Connecticut Parentage Act went into effect this month, same-gender parents in the state were not eligible to sign Acknowledgments to secure their parentage, putting a lengthy and costly burden on LGBTQ+ parents and leaving many children vulnerable.

Stephanie and Denise Ocasio-Gonzalez, parents of a 2-year-old and a 14-year-old, and Emily Pagano and Rachel Prehodka-Spindel, parents of 7.5-month-old twins and a 3-year-old, advocated as part of the We Care Coalition to pass the landmark Connecticut Parentage Act last year and spoke out about the harms the state’s outdated and unequal parentage laws caused their children. Both sets of parents signed Acknowledgments of Parentage this morning at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Emily Pagano and Rachel Prehodka-Spindel signed Acknowledgments securing parentage for all three of their children.

“Signing the Acknowledgments of Parentage today, knowing our three children are now fully protected and we will both finally be recognized as their legal parents is a tremendous relief,” said Emily Pagano. “As unmarried parents, we’ve faced frustrating and sometimes scary hurdles just trying to take care of our kids. Rachel wasn’t allowed to be a voting member of the Parents Committee at our 3-year-old Dylan’s public pre-school because she wasn’t seen as a legal parent. And when our entire family came down with COVID recently Rachel wasn’t permitted to act as Dylan’s medical proxy, delaying our ability to get our child’s test results. We are so grateful that we won’t have to fight these types of battles anymore, and neither will other Connecticut families. We’re proud of our work advocating for the Connecticut Parentage Act as part of the We Care Coalition and are thrilled to be part of this historic day.”

Stephanie and Denise Ocasio-Gonzalez were able to sign an Acknowledgment of Parentage today securing Denise’s parentage of their 2-year-old daughter, who was born to Stephanie during the couple’s marriage.

“As a married couple, we are grateful to have access to this acknowledgment of parentage to secure our child wherever we travel,” said Stephanie Ocasio-Gonzalez. “LGBTQ+ parents still experience discrimination in other jurisdictions, and having access in Connecticut to a simple form that operates as the equivalent of a court decree gives us the protection and security we’ve been waiting for.”

Denise has been the second parent to the couple’s 14-year-old son since he was 3 years old. Once the de facto parent provisions of the Connecticut Parentage Act go into effect on July 1 they will be able to secure Denise’s legal parentage of their son as well.

“Although we will have to wait another six months to protect our older child through the de facto parent provisions, we are thrilled to be so much closer to having full security for our entire family,” added Stephanie. “It has been empowering to play a role in educating people about the barriers families like ours have faced, and in making Connecticut a place where all families are recognized and protected.”

Legal parentage protects children by ensuring parents have clear responsibilities and rights like providing health insurance, decision-making for medical care or education, providing for basic needs, or payment of child support and parenting time in the event of separation. The Connecticut Parentage Act, which was signed by Governor Lamont in May 2021 and went into effect January 1, 2022, ensures equal access to legal parentage for all children, including those with unmarried, same-gender, or nonbiological parents.

In addition to granting LGBTQ+ parents access to the simple administrative Acknowledgment of Parentage form, which can be filled out in the hospital before or after birth or at a Department of Social Services Office for an older child, the CPA also extends accessible paths to parentage for children born through assisted reproduction and strengthens protections for children born through surrogacy.

“Connecticut has been a national leader in the fight to expand and protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people,” said Representative Jeff Currey, lead sponsor of the Connecticut Parentage Act. “With equal access to the Acknowledgment of Parentage program Connecticut’s LGBTQ+ families can now be protected here at home and wherever they travel. I’m proud to see our state take this historic step today to ensure that all children, and all families, are equally protected by our laws.”

“The Connecticut Parentage Act is one of the most child-centered, inclusive, and comprehensive parentage laws in the country,” said Douglas NeJaime, Yale Law Professor and principal drafter of the CPA. “With this law in effect, Connecticut families will now be treated equally, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or marital status, and LGBTQ+ parents and their children across the state will be more secure.”

The Connecticut Parentage Act is based on the model Uniform Parentage Act of 2017. In addition to Connecticut, California, Maine, Rhode Island, Washington, and Vermont have recently updated their parentage laws to incorporate recommendations in the UPA. A similar bill, the Massachusetts Parentage Act, is currently pending in Massachusetts.

“A secure legal parent-child relationship is core to a child’s long-term stability and well-being, and as of today all Connecticut children have access to that security regardless of the gender or marital status of their parents or the circumstances of their birth,” said Polly Crozier, Senior Staff Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and a leading advocate for updated and inclusive parentage laws. “I hope other states, including neighboring Massachusetts, will soon follow Connecticut’s excellent example by updating their parentage laws to ensure all children have equal access to parentage.”

More information about the Connecticut Parentage Act can be found at www.glad.org/cpa or www.law.yale.edu/cpa