Public Discourse – Jennifer Roback Morse 10 Sep 2012
A California bill allowing children to have three legal parents will not help children, but instead will unnecessarily complicate their lives. The supposed need for California’s SB 1476 flowed directly from the drive to normalize same sex parenting and recognize same sex unions.
Can a child have three parents? If California State Senator Mark Leno has his way, children in California will be able to have three legal parents. Before we dismiss SB 1476 as another example of California Weird, we had best look into it more closely. After all, the bill has passed both houses of the California Assembly and is awaiting Governor Brown’s signature or veto.
I believe this development was inevitable, more inevitable in fact than the much-vaunted inevitability of gay marriage. Once we started trying to normalize parenting by same-sex couples and redefine marriage to remove the dual-gender requirement, we had to end up with triple-parenting.
A deeper look at the whole picture surrounding SB 1476 reveals that not only should the three-parent law fail, same-sex “marriage” should fail as well. As we will see, embedded in this bill is an appalling power-grab by the state, and a grotesque misrepresentation of the facts by the bill’s authors.
Why Normalizing Same-Sex Parenting Inevitably Led to Triple-Parenting
Let us state an obvious fact: a same-sex couple cannot have a child unless someone gives them one, or part of one, namely either an egg or a sperm. If two women, for instance, decide they want to have a baby, they must still involve a man in the process. They can use some form of artificial reproductive technology with sperm from a man who is unknown to them. Or, they can find an accommodating friend to have sex with one of them, or to donate his sperm.
The question is this: how is the same-sex couple going to manage the relationship with this third party? In some cases, the women do not want any relationship with the father. Our government will give them this. Through the legal institution of anonymous sperm donation, the government agrees perpetually to separate a mother and a father from a legal relationship with each other.
If all same-sex couples were completely and permanently committed to ensuring that their child would never have a relationship with his or her other biological parent, then there would be no particular drive for same-sex parenting to lead to triple-parenting. But this is obviously a very strong condition. Some female couples will want their children to have an ongoing relationship with their father. Some fathers will want a relationship with their children. Hence, we can see that through situations such as these, normalizing same-sex parenting creates momentum for triple-parenting.
Some of these three-party relationships will be agreeable and cooperative and amicable. But again, it is obviously a very big presumption to suppose that every such relationship will be completely harmonious for a lifetime. Only some known donor fathers will be fathers on the exact terms desired by the two women. Other fathers will desire something different, either more or less involvement than the women want. We cannot count on private agreements among the parties to solve all problems and manage all disputes. A subset of these cases is going to end up being settled by the family courts. Therefore, not only does same-sex parenting create an impetus to triple-parenting, it creates an impetus for state involvement in the ongoing management of these complex relationships.
It all sounds very nice and agreeable to allow people to make any parenting agreements they want on the front end of their relationships. But when a relationship breaks down, the long arm of the law will end up involved in the life of the family, on the back end, to resolve disputes. We are replacing the natural pre-political concept of biological parenthood with an artificial, government-created concept of parenthood that is entirely socially constructed. Instead of the government simply recognizing and recording the pre-political reality of biological parenthood, we are giving agents of the state the authority to construct parenthood, all in the best interests of the child, of course.