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Biological fathers denied legal parenthood of their children

Chaunie Brusie is writer, speaker, and labor and delivery nurse. Her first book, Tiny Blue Lines, a guide to young motherhood, was released in May 2014. She writes about life as a young mom of three.

Gay couple denied rights in Texas

OK, let's get one thing straight here — this is not an opinion piece on gay marriage.

But it is an article about gay marriage.

Because as far as I can tell, there is no other reason in the world why two loving fathers would be denied the legal parentage of their own biological children.

Denied parenthood

Joe Riggs and Jason Hanna, a legally-married gay couple, were denied the right to be on their sons' birth certificates — even though each man is the biological father.

The situation seems a bit hard to wrap your head around, but it goes something like this. The couple was married legally in Washington D.C. and now reside in Texas, where the law does not recognize gay unions. In fact, under Texas law, no two men are permitted to be on the birth certificate together, and the only way gay couples can have children is to legally adopt each other's children. Gay marriage is outlawed and judges have the right to personally deny any gay couple's request to adopt.

Got all that?

But Riggs and Hanna were still shocked when they learned that a judge had turned down their petition to file as the legal parents of their twin sons, as many other gay parents in Texas have "worked around" the law, garnering judges who would legally permit them to be parents together.

In their case, however, that just didn't happen.

The proof is in the DNA

Now here is where I think the story gets a little tricky — the truth is, both Riggs and Hanna are biological fathers to one of their sons. Because the couple used a surrogate with donated eggs, they were able to each have one egg fertilized with their separate sperm. As a result, their surrogate (whose eggs were not used) is carrying one son from each father.

The two fathers had planned on having two separate birth certificates for each boy, adhering to Texas law that mandates that a man and woman be named on the birth certificate by also having the surrogate's name placed. And then, they planned to remove the surrogate's name (also a legal move done in the past with surrogates) and cross-adopting each other's sons so they were one big happy family.

And then they found out they wouldn't be allowed to legally adopt each other's sons, since Texas law mandates adoptions only occur for married couples, and doesn't recognize their marriage as valid.

And then they found out that not only would they not be legal guardians to both sons, but each father was also denied legal parentage of their own sons as well. The men's lawyers petitioned that if they couldn't cross-adopt as a gay couple to at the very least, have each father named on the birth certificate of his own biological son with the surrogate, but the judge denied that request.

In fact, the only person who the judge decreed could be legally named on the birth certificates is the surrogate mother —a woman with no biological connection whatsoever to the twins, and a woman who calls surrogacy her "part-time" job (she's carried four other babies for families). In other words, she doesn't exactly want legal guardianship of the boys either.

The right call?

I understand that the issue of gay marriage is a heated one, to say the least, and I'm not even going to try to pretend to take a stance on it or get into the complexities of recognizing gay marriage legally. But in looking at this situation? When each man is biologically a father to a baby and is still denied legal guardianship to that child simply based on his relationship choices?

Well, something seems a little off there.

Working in labor and delivery, I will say that I've seen a lot of interesting family situations and the truth is, there is no such thing as a "perfect" family. Fathers who will never be actual fathers are allowed on birth certificates every day, fathers who aren't biologically the fathers are mandated to be on the birth certificate (even if a woman has an affair, if she's married, her husband has to be named) and then you have circumstances such as this, when a father chose parenting — even went so far as to save money for his child before his own wedding — and yet is not deemed worthy enough to be a legal father.

Regardless of your feelings on gay marriage, don't you think there's something wrong with that picture?

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