Rhode Island Boosts Security for LGBTQ+ Families with Confirmatory Adoption Law

Rhode Island continues to be a leader in supporting and protecting LGBTQ+ people and families with the passage of a new law that makes it easier for parents who have had a child through assisted reproduction to confirm their parentage through adoption. 

Governor Dan McKee signed “An Act Relating To Domestic Relations — Adoption Of Children” (2023-H 5226A, 2023-S 0121A) into law June 19. Championed by Senator Dawn Euer and Representative Rebecca Kislak, the legislation removes cumbersome and costly barriers that non-biological parents face when adopting their own children, making it easier for them to secure an adoption decree to reflect their parentage. This gives families greater protection when they travel or move to places outside of Rhode Island—especially to areas that are less LGBTQ-friendly.

“This is a significant additional step toward ensuring LGBTQ+ families in Rhode Island are treated fairly and equally, and that their family ties are recognized and protected no matter the circumstances and no matter where they travel. We’re grateful for the leadership of Sen. Euer and Rep. Kislak in shepherding this bill to the governor’s desk,” said Polly Crozier, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders Director of Family Advocacy. “With extremists escalating their attacks on LGBTQ+ people across the country, parents are rightfully worried about the safety of their children. An adoption decree provides additional security for these families.”

Rhode Island parents who experienced the process of adopting their children born through assisted reproduction—including Rep. Kislak, who is an LGBTQ+ legislator, and her spouse—said it is needlessly long, convoluted, expensive and invasive, subjecting parents to a six-month waiting period, multiple court dates, home inspections, financial assessments, and other requirements.

Under the new law, parents of children born through assisted reproduction whose parentage has already been established through the Uniform Parentage Act need only submit to the court a petition signed by both parties that includes the child’s birth certificate, a marriage certificate if applicable, and a signed declaration by both parents explaining the circumstances of the child’s birth through assisted reproduction, attesting to their consent to assisted reproduction, and attesting that there are no competing claims of parentage.

The court will then grant the adoption within 30 days of finding that either the parent who gave birth and the spouse were married at the time of the child’s birth and the child was born through assisted reproduction; or, for nonmarital parents, that the person who gave birth and the non-marital parent consented to the assisted reproduction; and that no competing parental claims exist.

These changes to the adoption process apply only to children born through assisted reproduction whose parents seek adoption for confirmation of parentage that has already been legally established under the provisions of the Uniform Parentage Act.

“This law is one additional step we need to take to fully protect families. It will make the process much easier, and give them peace of mind when they travel to another state where their rights aren’t as secure,” said Rep. Kislak. “It shouldn’t be an arduous process for people to adopt their own children, whom they have loved and parented since birth. This law will eliminate obstacles so all kinds of families will have access to the legal protections they deserve.”

“It shouldn’t take years, thousands of dollars, humiliating inspections and many court dates to get an adoption decree that merely confirms an already legally recognized, loving family,” said Sen. Euer. “We are so happy to make this process far easier, so families can access the protection they need.”

“An Act Relating To Domestic Relations — Adoption Of Children” builds upon the important protections established for LGBTQ+ Ocean State families with the passage of the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act in 2020, which updated the state’s long outdated parentage laws to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ families.