BOSTON—One year after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a decision in Partanen v. Gallagher establishing that children born to unmarried same-sex couples stand on equal footing with all other children, the Commonwealth has yet to implement the decision, leaving parents and their newborn babies in legal limbo.
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, which litigated the case on behalf of Karen Partanen, sent a letter to the Department of Public Health on behalf of a female couple whose child was born at a local hospital. As the letter describes the couple’s experience, “… although extremely gracious, Mount Auburn told them that they were unable to complete a birth certificate worksheet and a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage (VAP) form because K. is a woman.” Without updated forms and instructions from the Department of Public Health, the hospital’s hands were tied.
GLAD’s letter goes on to say “Simply put, there are no barriers under Massachusetts or Federal law to this family executing and submitting a Massachusetts VAP, and they must be able to access this simple, affordable, efficient and administrative route to parentage.”
“While Massachusetts now recognizes that same-sex, non-birth parents are full, legal parents, the state has dragged its feet in making that status a reality,” said Polly Crozier, GLAD senior staff attorney. “Babies keep coming into the world, and their parents still don’t have the right tools to establish their legal relationship. Parents are frustrated and children are legally unprotected.”
Specifically, the state’s Department of Public Health has yet to create form or mechanism to establish Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage specific to same-sex couples. It has been over a year since the ruling, and there is no end in sight.
The Partanen case argued that child-centered laws should protect children born from assisted reproduction whether their parents are a same-sex or different-sex couple, and should ensure equal treatment of all children without regard to their parents’ marital status and genetic connection.
The Court concluded that the plain language of the statute applies to children born to same-sex parents like Karen, regardless of genetic ties, and declared Karen a legal parent to her children.
“Karen’s case illustrates how the courts and the law are catching up to today’s families, but implementation is where the rubber hits the road,” said Crozier. “We’re calling on the state to step up, cut through the bureaucracy, and make the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage form immediately available to same-sex couples.”
Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.
[From a News Release]