My wife and I recently welcomed our beautiful baby boy into the world. We’ve been a couple for eight years, married for four, and the start of our discussions about having a baby to actually giving birth stretched about three years. We planned every step of the way together. I got pregnant and the baby took my wife’s last name. My wife was the first person to hold him when he was born, and she’s often the last person to see his face as she puts him to bed each night. They have a special relationship that even I as the gestational parent don’t have, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Their bond runs deep, and in many ways, I believe that I was a conduit for helping their two souls connect in this life.
Despite all of this, because we are same-sex parents and because we live in New York state in particular, we are forced to undergo an invasive and expensive process to adopt our own child. While it may seem logical that my wife as the nonbiological parent has to file for a second parent adoption to obtain full legal protections for our son, the process she has to embark on is incredibly extreme, and it involves an unnecessary laundry list of costs and privacy violations.
What’s even more shocking is that as the biological parent, I have to undergo an invasive process by the state as well.
Surprisingly, you don’t have to live in Mississippi or Texas, or Zambia or Russia for that matter, nor the other states or countries that are less tolerant of LGBTQ people to encounter discriminatory hurdles to protect your families. New York state, which includes New York City, has draconian laws that force same-sex parents, including the biological parent, to jump through unfathomable hoops just to secure legal rights to the child they’re already raising.
As the biological parent, I still have to undergo a $1,100 social worker home visit, a criminal background check, a child abuse registry check (where I have to remember and turn over the list of my addresses dating back to 1978 or age 18), cough up medical records and taxes and pay a lawyer roughly $5,000. All to maintain the same rights over the child I grew from my egg in my womb and gave birth to.
It is incredibly demeaning to sit in your own living room with a complete stranger who may or may not be a parent or may or may not be a better parent than you and to have to answer questions about the intimate details of your life. It is supremely offensive for the state to require this social worker, who you do not know, to comb through your apartment looking for signs that you might be a bad parent when you have actually taken extraordinary steps to bring your child into the world and a herculean leap to secure full legal protection. That in itself should serve as sufficient evidence that we are deserving parents, though it shouldn’t be anyone’s right to make us prove that we intend to be parents to begin with.
In addition to all these hurdles, my wife also has to undergo fingerprinting, secure an employment verification letter and three reference letters confirming she is of good character and more intrusive questions and critiques from a social worker, including about religion, intimate details about her family and childhood and how she plans to address topics of conversation our child is years away from needing to have about his genetic makeup, etc.
A bill called the Child Parent Security Act was introduced into the New York state legislature that would remedy the outdated and ludicrous second-parent adoption laws, but it’s not likely to move soon because legislation typically takes an incredibly long time to pass in New York. It should, though, be a priority, as New York is home to thousands of LGBTQ families who increasingly need to embark on this process to fully protect their families. It’s in the best interest of the state to attract and retain diversity and to streamline the legal process that creates more stable and secure family units.
In contrast to New York’s cumbersome process, California, for instance, requires only the nonbiological parent to print and mail a one-page form and pay upward of $10. (I would venture to say even this is too much.)
In an ideal world, all courts and official entities would recognize our marriage and the planning that we did together to bring this child into the world as legal fact. No further evidence should be needed to prove that my wife, who has rearranged her life to prioritize taking care of our son, is the lawful mother.