August 18, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Following up on what I posted on Friday, there’s this from Joshua John Miller who’s Jason Patric’s half-brother (Huffington Post, 8/12/13). It’s a moving testimony to his own and Patric’s need for a father in their lives, and how that need translated into their support for California Senate Bill 115. That bill would take away the legal bar to a “sperm donor’s” becoming his child’s legal father.
Patric is straight and fathered a child with his girlfriend Danielle Schreiber. He spent three years being an active, hands-on father to little Gus, but a few months ago, Schreiber decided Gus didn’t need a father. Patric went to court, but California law is clear that he has no parental rights, despite all he’s done and of course despite the best interests of the three-year-old. We know that Jason and Gus have bonded as father and son. We know that Gus calls Jason “Dada.” Most importantly, we know that children do better with a father in their lives than without. But California law, bent on protecting the profits of sperm banks, doesn’t allow it.
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.
Miller is gay and wants to start a family with his partner.
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.
So what’s Miller to do? If he doesn’t want to adopt — and many states make it difficult for gay men or lesbian women to do so — how should he go about procreation? About the only way open to him is to do what his half-brother did — find a woman who’s agreeable, deposit semen with a clinic that does assisted fertilization and hope the mother doesn’t change her mind. If she does, according to current law, Miller will have no rights whatsoever to his child. Never mind their understanding and never mind his good intentions. In fact, never mind his loving care of the child, if she allows that to happen. According to California law, he could care for the child for 10 years, 14 years, or more, and she could still march into his life, take the child and he’d have no legal right to stop her.
Sound fair? Sound reasonable? Sound like it’s in the child’s best interests?
Apparently Patric and Miller were brought up without a father because he died prematurely.
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.
Ah, so Miller’s and Patric’s desire to raise a child springs in part from their own experience of being raised without a father who’d passed away. Understandably, they want to be the father to their children they missed in their own childhoods. Thanks to Miller for letting us know. His information tells us that Patric, far from how Schreiber and her lawyer have characterized him, has always wanted a child. So, of course he was a hands-on father to Gus. The only thing he failed to do was consult an attorney before agreeing with Schreiber to father the child, not through intercourse, but with the assistance of a doctor.
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.
Miller has a petition at MoveOn.org to encourage state legislators to pass S.B. 115. I, and the California affiliate of the National Parents Organization do too.
Interestingly, NOW and other feminist groups have always trumpeted their support for the rights of gay men and lesbian women….until they don’t. NOW’s continuing hypocrisy is daily on display, and its opposition to S.B. 115 is yet another example. S.B. 115 clearly benefits gay men and lesbian women in their fight to be treated equally in child-related legal issues. So what does NOW do? It opposes the bill, of course. Once again, when it comes to family courts and family law, NOW’s antipathy for men trumps every other consideration.
The National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
The National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Want to get involved? Here’s how:
Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting. Thank you for your activism.
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