Recognizing Variety of Modern Family Formation, Vermont Creates New, Critical Protections for Children and Parents

With Governor’s Signature, Vermont Becomes Second State in U.S. to Pass Updated Uniform Parentage Act

MONTPELIER, VT – Today Governor Phil Scott signed into law a comprehensive Parentage Act that ensures access to the courts and greater legal security for myriad families. Vermont thus becomes the second state in the country to pass a version of the 2017 Uniform Parentage Act. The state’s take on the 2017 Uniform Parentage Act, a recently-updated model law designed to provide security and equality for all children, recognizes that contemporary families are formed in many ways.

The law, which is gender neutral and marital status neutral, provides security for children, clarity for parents, and efficiency for the courts. The Vermont Parentage Act will promote the well-being of all children, particularly those born to LGBTQ parents, never-married parents and children born through assisted reproduction.

“All children and all parents deserve security and protection under law, no matter how their families are formed,” said Patience Crozier, Senior Staff Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), which provided technical assistance and worked with local advocates including the LGBTQIA Alliance of Vermont to secure passage of the bill. “GLAD has been advocating on behalf of Vermont children and parents for more than 20 years, and we applaud the legislature for their rigorous work to ensure modern, comprehensive legal protections for all Vermont families.”

GLAD has worked for decades to protect the core relationships of children and parents and to promote recognition of LGBTQ families, striving to avoid the tragic results of parent-child separation. In the 2017 case Sinnott v. Peck, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in favor of GLAD’s client, Sarah Sinnott, a never-married parent whose former partner sought to block her relationship with the child they had jointly brought into their family. In that decision, the Court called on the legislature to modernize its laws and provide clarity to families and courts about legal parentage. GLAD has litigated similar ground-breaking cases throughout New England.

Vermont responded by forming a study commission comprised of a broad array of stakeholders to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s parentage laws and to make recommendations to the legislature. Championed by sponsor Rep. Maxine Grad, the resulting bill, H. 562, updated Vermont’s laws and serves to better protect its children. The bill passed with broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

The new Vermont Parentage Act recognizes and supports the great diversity of families in Vermont, and enumerates the ways in which people can become legal parents, whether through birth, adoption, genetics, presumption, acknowledgment, adjudication, de facto status, assisted reproduction, or surrogacy.

“These provisions clarify who has access to Vermont courts and enables parents and children to better secure their parent-child relationships,” said Crozier. “There is nothing more central to the well-being of children than securing these critical relationships.  We urge states across the country to follow Vermont’s lead and ensure robust, equal protections for children and families by adopting the 2017 Uniform Parentage Act.”

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Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.