SAN FRANCISCO—The California Assembly approved a bill on Tuesday, September 3, that allows judges to declare that a child has more than two legal parents.
The bill, also known as SB 274, was proposed by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) because of a 2011 court case in which a judge ruled that a girl’s legal parent could not care for her and her biological father was deemed not a parent.
Under the proposed legislation, “This bill would amend California’s parentage laws to allow courts, under limited circumstances, to recognize more than two people as the parents of a child when not doing so would be detrimental to the child (and) it will only apply when more than two people have a claim to legal parentage under the existing Family Code,” according to Leno’s website.
“This authorization would be used only rarely, and not when children are blessed with too many parents but too few,” said Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-ScottsValley).
The bill was co-authored by Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and is co-sponsored by the Children’s Advocacy Institute and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
If passed, California would join Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia in allowing children to have more than two legally recognized parents, according to Leno’s office.
Governor Brown said SB 274 is substantially similar SB 1476, a bill that Leno proposed in 2012 and was vetoed by Brown.
“I am sympathetic to the author’s interest in protecting children,” Brown said. “But I am troubled by the fact that some family law specialists believe the bill’s ambiguities may have unintended consequences. I would like to take more time to consider all of the implications of this change, he added.
According to Leno’s office, recognition of legal parenthood would give the child access to support from all parents as well as health insurance, benefits and inheritance rights.
“Recognizing these families can also reduce the state’s financial responsibility for the child because all parents have the obligation to support the child,” Leno’s office said. “In dependency actions, if a child has more than two parents, legal acknowledgements of more than two of those parents may keep the child out of foster care by giving the court more placement options.”
Capitol Resource Institute, an organization in opposition to SB 274, said the bill does not take into account the numerous areas of law that would be affected by a redefinition of parenthood and is detrimental to the best interest of children.
“Children thrive in consistent settings and in homes with their biological mother and father, or with adoptive parents, being male and female role models,” said the Capitol Resource Institute in a statement. “This bill only serves to appease the adults and would cause chaos in the life of the child. Should this bill become law, it would obfuscate child custody and support proceedings in an already overburdened court system,” they added.
The Assembly passed the bill 43-27 and it will now go to the Senate for a final vote.
By Melissa Simon