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Non-Bio Moms Gain Rights in the Beaver State

A Circuit Court judge in Multnomah County, Oregon ruled Friday that a non-biological mother should receive automatic legal parental status over her partner’s biological child—that is, without needing to go through adoption procedures.

If this wasn’t good enough news, the judge also found that “two Oregon laws (ORS 109.070 and ORS 109.243) granting parental rights to married couples unconstitutionally discriminate against families headed by same-gender couples,” according to a press release by Basic Rights Oregon (via Gay Rights Watch). One solution, the judge said, is Oregon’s new Domestic Partnership law, assuming it goes into effect as scheduled on January 1, 2008. (An Oregon domestic partnership would gives same-sex couples all the rights of married couples except in name, i.e., it equals a New Jersey civil union.) Opponents, however, have mounted a signature campaign to place the new law on the ballot, which could delay or overturn it. Friday’s ruling means that such results could “precipitate a constitutional crisis,” according to John Hummel, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon.The Oregon ruling is further proof that LGBT parents are not only a component, but a leading one, in the fight for full equality. TIME magazine recently commented: “as acts like Colorado’s [second-parent adoption law] give gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to showcase their worth as partner-parents, the laws will help erode resistance to same-sex matrimony.” It’s funny: more and more Americans are viewing children as less central to marriage; for LGBT Americans, children are central in our struggle for marriage rights. Not that couples with children are more “deserving” of marriage equality than others; but children clearly play a key role in public perception of our relationships, for better or worse.

With regard to the Oregon ruling, I feel obligated to repeat a piece of advice from attorney Cathy Sakimura of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, stated in an interview on Mombian earlier this year. Even if you live in a jurisdiction like California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, or now Oregon, where you can have both partners on the birth certificate without an adoption, you may want to consult with an attorney to see if this is enough protection:

We do strongly recommend that everyone who is not a biological parent obtain an adoption or court order of parentage, even in states such as Massachusetts. If you do not have such a judgment, it is possible that you will experience difficulties in having your parent-child relationship honored when traveling to other states and countries or when dealing with the federal government. If the federal government does not legally recognize you as a parent, your children would be ineligible for social security benefits in the event of your death, you would not be able to obtain a passport for your child without your child?s legally recognized parent, and your children may be denied other federal benefits.

For more information about how to protect your family, please visit our website at www.nclrights.org and click on ?Need Help?? or call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-528-6257.

Gaining rights state-by-state may be tactically the best approach, and we should celebrate our victories on that level, but until there is federal recognition, we’ll still be second-class citizens.

(Crossposted at Mombian.)

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