Rhode Islanders for Parentage Equality Celebrates Final Passage of Uniform Parentage Act

The bill updates the state’s 40-year-old law to ensure all Rhode Island children have equal access to the security of legal parentage

Providence — Today the Rhode Island House and Senate passed a final version of the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act, legislation that updates the state’s 40-year-old law to ensure all Rhode Island children have equal access to the security of legal parentage. The bill now goes to Governor Raimondo for signing.

Rhode Islanders for Parentage Equality (RIPE), a coalition of parents, families, community members, and organizations advocating for the legal security of all children and families in Rhode Island, celebrated today’s final milestone following a three-year+ effort to update the parentage law to be more fair, equitable, and protective of all families.

“We are thrilled with today’s vote to support justice and equality for children and families in Rhode Island,” said Wendy Becker, advocate and organizer with RIPE and LGBTQ Action RI. “The parents advocating for this bill have shown up again and again to tell painful stories about the fears and consequences of not having a clear legal relationship to their children. The COVID-19 pandemic has made their concerns even more urgent. We thank the members of the House and Senate, including all of the bill’s sponsors, for recognizing that what’s best for Rhode Island and best for families is to ensure that all parents have the ability to protect their children through a secure legal relationship as soon after birth as possible.”

“When my partner Anna and I welcomed our son Eli in 2016, I was a legal stranger to him because our laws didn’t address the parentage of a child born to unmarried same-gender parents or conceived through fertility treatments,” said Sara Watson, a physician and parent member of RIPE. “It took eight agonizing months to finalize Eli’s adoption. I couldn’t make legal decisions for Eli. I couldn’t add him on my insurance. I couldn’t pick him up from daycare. Rhode Island’s outdated law might even have denied me custody of Eli if something had happened to Anna before the adoption was finalized. For 4 years Anna and I have been advocating so families like ours never need to go through that same pain and fear. We’re grateful to our Representative Carol McEntee for championing this bill, and to all the House and Senate members who voted today to make sure no family ever has to experience what we did.”

“The passage of this bill today means the world to me and my wife, Meredith,” said Andi Wheeler, an expectant parent advocate with RIPE. “After four years of planning and painful losses, we are expecting our first child in the fall. But along with the joy of building our family, I have experienced profound fear about whether I will be fully recognized everywhere as my child’s parent. It hurts deeply to be told that in order to protect our child my family would be subject to the scrutiny of a home study, and that we would have to provide notice to the anonymous donor that I am adopting the child Meredith and I planned for. We have also worried about what delays might be caused by COVID-19, and whether the courts would even be open by the time we are able to start the adoption process. Today the legislature said clearly that we shouldn’t have to have those worries – that our child, like every child born in Rhode Island, deserves to have a secure legal tie to both their parents as soon as they are born.”

“Today’s vote is a huge win for Rhode Island families,” said Polly Crozier, Senior Staff Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “The RIUPA centers the needs of Rhode Island’s children and incorporates the perspective of the many stakeholders who care about Rhode Island children and families – including parents, community members, key state agencies and the Family Court – as well as best practices from model national legislation. We’re grateful to lead sponsors Senator Erin Lynch Prata and Representative Carol McEntee, and to Representative and Judiciary Chair Robert Craven for their commitment and work to make sure we passed a bill this session that makes Rhode Island parentage law clear, accessible and Constitutional, and removes unfair barriers that have made it harder for parents to protect their children.”

“The Judiciary Committee heard heart wrenching testimony about the ways in which our outdated laws are impacting parents and children. As our laws stand right now, a couple who have a child via a sperm donor may have to hire a lawyer or advertise to determine parentage in order to terminate the parental rights of an anonymous sperm donor. Parents may be unable to make medical decisions for their child when they’re incapacitated due to complications. This is simply unfair. Rhode Island law needs to be updated so that the state no longer puts up unnecessary obstacles to loving parents simply because they are not heterosexual or have not conceived through traditional reproduction methods,” said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).

“Our state’s adoption and parentage laws are significantly outdated, especially toward our state’s loving LGBTQ parents who want nothing more than to love, protect, and be responsible for their children. These bills are needed because we must acknowledge that our society and its definition of ‘families’ has changed and we cannot discriminate or put up undue burdens for those who wish nothing more than to love and raise the future members of our society. The legislation is also supremely beneficial to the children who are born through these processes because it allows them to officially have two loving and supportive parents from the moment they are born. This bill is specifically about one thing – equality and fairness, especially for the loving parents and their children in this state,” said Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

The RIUPA fills critical gaps in the state’s parentage law, particularly for LGBTQ parents and their children. The legislation allows LGBTQ couples access to establishing parentage through a simple civil Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage, reducing the need for a burdensome, expensive and lengthy co-parent adoption process. It also creates for the first time in Rhode Island an accessible path to parentage for children born through assisted reproduction, as well as protections for children born through surrogacy.

To speak to parents who have been impacted by Rhode Island’s outdated parentage law, or for more information about the legal impact of the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act, contact Amanda Johnston at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, ajohnston@glad.org

Parents and families who have specific questions or concerns regarding parentage should contact GLAD Answers at www.GLADAnswers.org


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, 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 New England, Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians, RI ACLU, 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.