In Australia, a sperm-donor/hands-on dad's parental rights have been terminated in favor of those of a lesbian mother with no biological relationship to the child. Read about it here
The pseudonymous John Williams met two lesbian women 12 years ago. He wanted to be a father to a child and they needed a sperm donor to conceive one. So Williams agreed to be the sperm donor and ten years ago, one of the women gave birth to his daughter.
Williams was there at the birth and his name was on the birth certificate as father. He helped pay the costs of pregnancy and childbirth. He's had court-ordered visitation with the girl ever since, which he's never missed in ten years. He's paid child support every week for ten years. He pays the fees for her private school which sends him her report cards regularly. The girl calls him "Daddy."
He even bought a second house near his daughter's school so that his 88-year-old mother could see her only granddaughter.
He tried to fit with the restrictive dietary regime demanded by her mothers, with vegan meals every two hours, Chinese herbs, homeopathic salts, kombu seaweed, miso, cashew nut butter, spelt bread and supplements.
But no more. All of that changed recently due to a law passed in 2008 granting lesbian women parental rights. Somehow that's meant that Williams is no longer considered the father of his daughter, the girl who looks like him, who has his eyes and whom he's helped raise for all of her 10 years.
Yet the District Court judgement this week expunged sperm donor John Williams (not his real name) from his 10-year-old daughter's birth certificate.
The girl now officially has two mothers - the biological mother and her estranged lesbian partner. But by law she has no father, thanks to the introduction in 2008 of retrospective NSW legislation giving lesbian couples equal parent status.
"It's terrible. It's a nightmare. It's just about killing me," said Mr Williams, sitting on his daughter's neatly made bed in his inner-west home yesterday...
"I'm told by the law that she's no longer my daughter and I'm no longer her father," he said.
That's true despite the fact that the two women have split up. So the law giving lesbian women parental rights somehow has been read to mean that fathers in Williams' place have none.
To say the least, it's a strange outcome. Here's a guy who's done everything right. He's done everything we say dads should do and none of the things we say dads shouldn't do. He's been an active, hands-on, loving father for ten years, plus he's the girl's biological dad. But for some reason, a law giving lesbian women parental rights cuts him out of his daughter's life.
Now, elsewhere in family law, children have more than two parents. It comes about when Mom and Dad divorce and one or both remarry. The child all of a sudden acquires a new parent or possibly two. It's called divorce and remarriage, it's common as dirt, and no one thinks twice about it.
So why can't the same thing happen in Williams' case? After all, the non-biological mother who's no longer with the biological mom seems to have visitation rights, so why can't Williams. As a matter of fact, that same non-biological mother has a new partner, so yet another mother has been added to the child's life. But for reasons I can only guess at, John Williams is the only person in the whole drama with no rights and no contact with his daughter.
And speaking of the child, where is the usual inquiry into the "best interests of the child?" Apparently the court made none, which is interesting. That inquiry is almost invariably made in custody matters, and fathers like Williams often benefit from it.
Imagine a straight father and straight mother involved in a custody dispute. He's done everything Williams has done and there are no allegations of violence against him. He may not get primary custody, but he'd surely not lose his rights altogether. Indeed, the court would probably opine that it's in the child's best interests to maintain an active loving relationship with her father. And that would unquestionably be true.
So why not here?
"I just hope that one day, maybe when she's about 15 she'll want her father and she'll come to my door and say 'Daddy I don't want to live with that mother any more'. And when that day comes I won't be sending her back."
Mr Williams has written to Attorney-General Greg Smith asking the state government to amend the law to uphold father's rights.
Mr Smith is on leave but his spokesman said yesterday: "We are considering the judgment."
Fathers and Families has always actively supported the parental rights of gay men and lesbian women. We'll continue to do that. But I can think of no reason why parental rights for those groups should be interpreted to lessen the parental rights of fathers, gay or straight.