August 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Lesbian couples ‘uninformed’ about D.C. parentage law

American University law professor Nancy Polikoff, a nationally recognized expert on LGBT related family law, has issued an alert to lesbian couples in D.C. — getting married isn’t the best way to guarantee your rights as parents of children conceived through artificial insemination.

Polikoff said the enactment of D.C.’s same-sex marriage law last year has overshadowed another sweeping law the city enacted in 2009 that provides same-sex couples with all of the parental rights that heterosexual couples have through a legal status separate from marriage.

Among other things, the law “confers the status of legal parent on both lesbian mothers who plan a child using donor insemination,” Polikoff said in a blog posting at the time the law was passed. She said the law gives full parental rights to the partner of the couple who doesn’t give birth to the child as long as both partners sign an official Consent to Parent form.

Polikoff said that lesbian couples who marry in D.C. and other states also are given equal parental rights to a child conceived through artificial insemination. But she said that the parental right of the partner who doesn’t bear the child could be disputed or rejected by other states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage.

A signed Consent to Parent form linked to the city’s sweeping parentage law provides much stronger legal protection of the parental rights of a lesbian couple in other states, said Polikoff.

Yet many lesbian couples apparently are unaware of this form, which the city requires all hospitals to make available to female same-sex partners at the time one of the partners gives birth, Polikoff said. She noted that the form also clears the way for the names of both partners to appear on the birth certificate.

“We have to educate lesbians giving birth in D.C. about this form,” Polikoff told the Blade. “It has nothing to do with marriage. The couple doesn’t need to be married. Plus getting your name on the birth certificate because of signing this form will be more protection in other states than getting on the birth certificate through marriage,” she said.


Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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