Parents and Advocates Call for Comprehensive Parentage Reform to Protect All Rhode Island Children
February 26, 2020
Amanda Johnston, GLAD | 617-417-7769 | firstname.lastname@example.org
RIPE Coalition Member Wendy Becker | 401-477-4154
Parents and Advocates Call for Urgently Needed Comprehensive Parentage Reform to Protect All Rhode Island Children
Parents, family law experts, and advocates spoke out at the State House today calling for passage of the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act with key amendments to ensure the final bill is best practice and constitutional.
Providence – As the House Committee on Judiciary prepared to hear testimony on H 7541, the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act (RIUPA), introduced by lead sponsor Rep. Carol McEntee, parents, family law experts, and other advocates gathered in the State House today to speak out on the urgent need to pass comprehensive parentage reform this session and provide an equal path to parentage for all children.
“My family and I have been standing in front of legislators advocating for an updated parentage law for the past 3 years – just about long as my son Eli, has been alive,” said Sara Watson, M.D. “When Eli was born, I had no presumed parental rights. Not one. I was not his birth parent and I wasn’t able to put my name on his birth certificate before we left the hospital. I had to spend eight agonizing months going through a burdensome process to adopt my son. During that time, he was denied the security of a legal tie to one of his parents. I couldn’t make legal decisions for Eli, add him as a beneficiary on my insurance or pick him up from daycare. I couldn’t automatically utilize the parental leave Rhode Island guarantees for new parents. Rhode Island’s outdated law might even have denied me custody if something had happened to my partner, Anna, before the adoption was finalized. It breaks my heart to think what might have happened to Eli had that been the case.”
“I have the unique experience both of going through the drawn-out, expensive and invasive “2nd parent adoption” process following my first child’s birth and of being presumed the legal co-parent at my second child’s birth,” said Aarav Sundaresh, father of two young children, Dhruva and Dara. “I am transgender, and our first child was born before my gender transition. Experiencing both of these scenarios demonstrates the painful irony of Rhode Island’s current legal pathways to parentage. I am the same person, experiencing very different situations. The law needs to ensure equality for LGBTQ parents so they can establish their parentage like other families, including through a voluntary acknowledgement of parentage. All children– including children born through assisted reproduction– need a route to secure their parentage. Experiencing both of these scenarios demonstrates the painful irony of Rhode Island’s current legal pathways to parentage. I am the same person, experiencing very different situations. The law needs to ensure equality for LGBTQ parents so they can establish their parentage like other families, including through a voluntary acknowledgement of parentage. All children– including children born through assisted reproduction– need a route to secure their parentage.”
“When my daughter June was born, she was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit,” said Moira Hinderer. “I saw her for one blurry second and then underwent an emergency hysterectomy and was incapacitated. In the meantime, June’s other mother Hillary had no legal standing as a parent. Her second-parent adoption would not be complete for three months and her name was not on the birth certificate. Thankfully, the staff let Hillary into the NICU with June, but since I couldn’t give her permission to make medical decisions, the NICU team had to do what they thought was best, which was to intubate her. To say it was incredibly stressful doesn’t begin to describe it. While June is now a healthy and happy 8-year-old, we still think about what could have happened had the hospital staff not been supportive. Families like ours should not be at the mercy of chance.”
Rhode Island parentage law has not kept pace with how contemporary families are formed. The law was last updated over 40 years ago, and only two states, Mississippi and Kentucky, have laws that are as out of date. The current law is unconstitutional, places unnecessary, costly and often humiliating burdens on parents who must adopt their own children, and leaves many children vulnerable. Rhode Island’s current parentage law does not provide equal protection to children of unmarried parents, or children born through assisted reproduction. While Rhode Island allows surrogacy, current law also provides no protections for children born through surrogacy.
“In my work at GLAD and as a family lawyer, I have seen the tragic impact of outdated laws,” said Polly Crozier, Senior Staff Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “I have seen children effectively kidnapped and separated from loving non-legal parents. I have seen non-biological parents run to court for protection so that their child doesn’t go into the foster care system. No child or parent should have to worry about the loss of this most precious and foundational relationship.”
The Senate version of the RIUPA, S 2136A introduced by lead sponsor Sen. Erin Lynch Prata, passed unanimously on February 11. The House is currently considering its version of the bill, H 7541.
“Rhode Islanders for Parentage Equality supports the passage of the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act, with key amendments proposed by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders,” said Julie Keller, parent and RIPE coalition member. “With these amendments, the RIUPA will update Rhode Island law to be best practice and constitutional, provide clarity and consistency on who can be a parent, and protect all Rhode Island children.”
For more information including a fact sheet on the Rhode Island Parentage Act, stories from impacted families, and an updated supporter list visit www.glad.org/ripe.
Rhode Islanders for Parentage Equality (RIPE) is a coalition of parents and organizations working to ensure Rhode Island parentage law is constitutional and protects all children. In addition to numerous Rhode Island families, RIPE includes: the Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys; ACLU Rhode Island; Adoption Rhode Island; the American Academy of Pediatrics, Rhode Island Chapter; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists District 1; Brown College Democrats; College Democrats of Rhode Island; Fertility Within Reach; GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders; LGBTQ Action Rhode Island; the National Association of Social Workers, Rhode Island Chapter, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England; New England Surrogacy; NOW Rhode Island; Resolve: the National Infertility Association; Resolve New England; Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians; Rhode Island Affiliate of the American College of Nurse Midwives the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom; the Rhode Island Medical Society; Rhode Island State Nurses Association; TGI Network Rhode Island; Thundermist Health Center; and the WOMXN Project.