Same-Sex Parental Rights On The Horizon?

When a heterosexual couple has a child, establishing parental rights is pretty straightforward - register the birth and walk away with baby in tow. But for those of the LGBT community, gaining parental rights for both parties requires jumping through a series of costly, time-consuming legal hoops. But Premier Kathleen Wynn is vowing to effect changes by year-end.

Complications Arising From The Definition Of "Parent"

Ontario legislation currently contains a gender-specific definition of "parents". Birth registrations allow for a "mother" and a "father/other". But when a same-sex couple has a natural child, three players make up the picture - the biological parent, his or her same-sex partner and the egg or sperm donor.

The legal complexities can be seen in the example of a lesbian couple. After the birth, the birth mother has automatic parental rights. But were she to die on the operating table, her wife would have no legal relationship with the baby and would not be permitted to take it home as her own. Even years later, the non-birth mother could not legally take the couple's child for a doctor's visit.

Where the donor's identity is unknown to the couple, the non-birth mother can be classed under the "other" category in birth registrations. But if the couple knows the donor, the couple is faced with two options: have the non-birth mother formally adopt the child, or head to court to have her declared a "parent". Both processes are encumbered by expense, time and the stress of riding out the two-month window during which the donor may decide to re-enter the picture and exert his rights as the biological father.

Change In The Offing

The issues have been debated for years. Meanwhile, same-sex parents continue to struggle with birth-registration red tape and a host of other legal hurdles such as obtaining employment insurance maternity/paternity benefits. But if the Premier has her way, same-sex parents could be sailing smoother waters by the end of the year.

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