February 13, 2002
Delaware family court commissioner
considers domestic partner as parent in child support case
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a Delaware family court
commissioner has ruled that lesbian being sued by her former partner for child support
should be considered a parent even though she and the boy have no biological connection.
Family Court Commissioner John Carrow said that both women should be considered mothers
to the 4-year-old boy they chose to have through in-vitro fertilization. He ordered both
women to attend a child support hearing at a later date.
"It's definitely a leap," said attorney Joel Tenenbaum, chairman-elect of the
American Bar Association's family law section. "It absolutely expands the definition
of a parent."
There have been at least four similar cases fought in California, Pennsylvania and
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San
Francisco, said that a key issue is whether both parents consented to the creation of the
child. When a married couple uses artificial insemination, there is an automatic
presumption that the husband is the father, he said.
In two cases in Pennsylvania during the last year, courts ordered non-biological
mothers to pay child support because they had consented to their child's creation, Minter
In Washington state, a trial court ruled that the former partner of a biological mother
was not a parent and did not have to continue to pay child support. An appeals court
agreed the former partner was not liable and found that the only people required to
support a child as a parent are those who are biologically related to a child or who adopt
The California case is still pending.
Before the decision, if a homosexual couple raising children together in Delaware split
up, only the person with custody had legal responsibility for supporting the children.
"It's another step toward the day when those children of gay couples have the same
legal protections as children whose parents are heterosexual," Minter said.
Nationally, about 14 million children have homosexual parents, according to a book on
same-sex parenting cited by Carrow in his ruling.
British lawmaker drops civil
A story released today by the RainbowNetwork.com reports that British lawmaker, Liberal
Democrat peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill announced today that he would not proceed with his
Civil Partnership Bill, which he introduced in January as a Private Members Bill.
He said in a statement that he will press for a Select Committee to consider the Bill
and take further evidence in November this year.
"I am enormously grateful for those who have expressed support for the Bill. There
has been a very constructive public discussion that was reflected in the House of Lords
debate. I am also encouraged by the work that the government is now undertaking, led by
Barbara Roche and her team at the Cabinet Office, who are looking in detail at all the
issues." said Lester.
"I want to build on that support and take my proposals for civil partnerships
registration forward in the most helpful way possible. I believe that the most appropriate
way forward would be for a broad-based Select Committee of the House of Lords to have the
opportunity of looking widely at all the issues, both of principle and detail. Such a
committee could also consider the work the government is now undertaking which I
understand is likely to be completed by the autumn." added Lester.
Angela Mason, executive director of Stonewall, who are campaigning for a Civil
Partnership Bill, said: "We have always recognized that the introduction of civil
partnership registration will take a lot of discussion and detailed consideration of all
the issues. We believe that Lord Lesters proposal is a helpful way of moving forward
and again we pay tribute to the work he has done in so effectively putting the case for
civil partnerships in the public domain."
Speaking in support of the principles of civil partnership, leader of the Liberal
Democrats Charles Kennedy said: "Anthony Lester has done a wonderful job in promoting
the Civil Partnership Bill and the cause of equality. I know that his Bill received
widespread support and I am delighted that he is to push for it to be considered by a
Select Committee in the future. The Liberal Democrats support this Bill and I wish it
every success in the future."
Connecticut lawmakers tackle bills
on same-sex civil unions and marriages
A story released today by CNSNews.com reports that the cultural and political battle
over same sex unions will now be fought in Connecticut with the introduction of two bills,
one that would allow homosexuals the unprecedented right to marry one another.
The legislation has been introduced in the state House Judiciary Committee. The second
bill would mirror a Vermont law and allow residents to enter into same-sex civil unions
with many of the benefits and protections that are granted to spouses in traditional
marriages, but it would stop short of allowing marriage between homosexuals.
Should either of the bills pass the Connecticut General Assembly, they would end up on
the desk of Republican Gov. John Rowland.
Connecticut State Representative Michael P. Lawler said he believes Connecticut will
implement some sort of legislation to provide rights for homosexuals.
"My sense is that we can probably pass something in the committee and in the
Legislature as a whole that provides a list of rules that would apply to same-sex
couples," Lawler said.
Legislation allowing civil unions, however, has a better chance of passing, Lawler
said. "There is probably a 50-50 chance of passing a civil union bill as Vermont did.
I don't think the votes are there to amend the marriage statute this year, but clearly the
momentum is moving in the direction of acknowledging and providing rules to deal with
same-sex couples," Lawler said.
"It is a very non-partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans are probably divided
along the same lines. In Connecticut, at least, the ranking member of our [Judiciary]
committee [Rep. Robert Farr] is Republican and he supports civil unions. I would have to
say it is pretty bi-partisan," Lawler said. "Connecticut has been in the
vanguard of states that have acknowledged legitimate rights of gays and lesbians over the
past 15 years and I don't think this is any different."
Monday, February 11, 2002
A nontraditional family is still a
family in every sense of the word
A story published today by the San Francisco Examiner reports that Tom Grissinger has
four children with four different women, which isn't really odd unless you consider the
fact that Grissinger is gay and the mothers of his children are lesbians.
Through the help of Rainbow Flag Health Services and Sperm Bank, Grissinger was able to
achieve a lifelong dream of having children.
"No one in the family imagined that their gay son would have four kids,"
But in 1995, Grissinger saw an ad from Rainbow Flag seeking gay sperm donors to become
"uncles" to lesbian couples. Unlike other sperm banks, which offer anonymous
donors or provide donor information once the child turns 18, Rainbow gives immediate
information and encourages the biological father to participate in the child's life.
The donor has no legal or financial responsibilities, and there are no formal rules to
the relationship other than the women who use the service agree to contact the donor
within a year of the child's birth. The rest is up to the parents.
After discussing the options with his longtime partner, Skip Searcy, Grissinger decided
Rainbow was the way to go.
Seven years later, he has two daughters in the Bay Area, one in New York and a son in
"For me, it was an instant comfort," Grissinger said from his San Jose home,
which is filled with photos of his children. "They know what gay people are like and
there is less fear of rejection."
The feeling is mutual for Rebecca McDonald and her partner, Valerie Venezia, who are
the parents of Grissinger's biological daughter, Ava.
While the fact that a gay donor played a role in their decision to choose the sperm
bank, the deciding factor was the identity release program.
Only 2 and halfway across the country in New York, Ava has met all sides of her family,
including all three sets of grandparents. They are planning a visit to California again in
June to see Grissinger and Searcy.
While each relationship is different with each of his biological children's parents,
Grissinger couldn't picture life without his kids.
That's why he flew out to speak to the FDA in December about its proposed regulations,
which would ban gay men from donating sperm.
"I just can't imagine someone telling me, 'You can't have children this way,'
" he said.
Domestic partner benefits granted
to South African soldiers
A story released today by the Daily Mail & Guardian reports that domestic partners
of members of the South African National Defense Force are set to receive all spousal
benefits following publication of new definitions of "marital status" and
"spouse" in the Government Gazette, reported Jan. 11.
For military purposes, "spouse" is now defined as "a partner (the
partnership being either heterosexual or homosexual) in a permanent life partnership, if
such partnership was attested before a notary public."