If you're gay, read this. If you're straight, read this.
There's a war going on in California that affects any of us that plan to be parents one day-- especially those of us (gay or straight) who may end up using alternative methods of conception. As a gay man who's trying to start a family with my partner, we're lucky to live in a state that's historically been progressive in regards to non-traditional families-- but as in the case of my brother Jason Patric, there are still ways, no matter what your orientation, to fall through the cracks-- unless, that is, he can have his day in court to demand partial custody of the son he has spent the past three years co-raising. And to have that, we need help.
On a personal note: I know the challenges of being raised by a single parent-- for much of my childhood, I wished that I could have had my own father be a part of the fabric of my growing up. Many years after my father's death, I was able to forge a friendship with my half-brother, Jason Patric. Our father's play, That Championship Season, was being mounted on Broadway again, and Jason was producing and starring. The process of reviving this work brought us into each others' orbits more than our fractured family's past ever had.
One of the things I discovered in getting to know Jason is that we both shared the desire to start our own families in the wake of our father's death: sometimes, it takes losing a parent to realize the true value and necessity for family-- and while Jason started a family with his girlfriend, I am in the process of creating my own with my partner.
Unfortunately, six months ago Jason's son Gus was taken away unceremoniously by his then girlfriend. After spending three years helping to raise his son, he now is unable to seek formal paternity because of 7630 of the Family Code.
California has a laudable history of crafting legislation to support the intended family structures of people using reproductive technologies-- in many ways, it's a model for the nation. Unfortunately, 7630 of the Family Code inadvertently fails to live up to this standard. It creates more than a rebuttable presumption against a sperm donor (that a court could weigh and set aside based on the evidence of the parties), it creates an absolute ban on fatherhood, despite the intention or action of the parties and despite the best interests of the child. This not only serves to undermine individuals who did not obtain legal advice at the time of insemination, but sees fatherhood as the singular event of procreation, rather than as a process of nurturing a child by bringing it into one's home and holding it out as one's child. Surely, that cannot have been the legislature's intent, as it would be inconsistent with the State's other legislation that respects family choices of individuals using reproductive technologies and recognizes the benefits to children of supporting familial relationships.
SB 115 will allow courts to provide for father's rights in cases where the parties are able to establish that their actions proved a father-child relationship rather than rely on a lawyer having prepared a contract about a hypothetical future relationship a donor might have with an unborn child. SB 115 will only bring 7630 in line with other reproductive legislation in the State and could only serve the best interests of the child.
SB 115 goes to a vote in the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, August 13th. It is imperative that it gets to the floor for a vote after already passing through the Senate at 38-0.
I've started a petition at MoveOn.org to gather support for the passing of SB 115, to tell the California Assembly that no parent who's been an intricate part of their child's life should be allowed to be cut out without any good reason.
Jason's compassion and determination to be a father is inspiring. He made a conscious decision to become a parent, and he deserves to be one.
He earned it. He's a great father.