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Monday, March 8, 2021
Parents and LGBTQ Advocates Testify in Support of the CT Parentage Act
In a hearing before the Connecticut Judiciary Committee on March 8, 2021, families and community members called on assembly members to pass the Connecticut Parentage Act (CPA), state legislation that would ensure that all Connecticut children — regardless of the circumstances of their birth or the marital status, gender, or sexual orientation of their parents — have equal access to the security of a legal parent-child relationship.
A team of Yale Law students and faculty have worked for the past two years to coordinate legislative drafting and advocacy efforts with members of the General Assembly, judges of the family and probate courts, state agencies, state fertility clinics, child welfare groups, LGBTQ rights organizations, and the Connecticut Bar Association.
Anne Urowsky Professor of Law Douglas NeJaime and law students Sara Sampoli ’21, Calleigh Higgins ’23, and Malina Simard-Halm ’23 gave testimony at the hearing.
“As it stands, Connecticut’s parentage law is outdated, discriminatory, and unconstitutional,” said NeJaime, a Connecticut native and a principal drafter of the bill. “The day a child is born should be the happiest time of a parent’s life — not a time of legal uncertainty and worry. The Connecticut Parentage Act will treat families that have historically been excluded based on gender, sexual orientation, and marital status with the respect and recognition they deserve.”
While Connecticut historically has been a leader in LGBTQ equality, it is the only New England state that fails to extend parentage protections to different-sex and same-sex couples equally —leaving many parents in same-sex relationships legal strangers to their own children. The absence of a legal relationship can have a devastating impact on families, say supporters of the CPA, including by barring parents from making medical and educational decisions for their children, adding their children to their health insurance, or obtaining custody in the event of separation or death of a legal parent.
“When our amazing baby girl was born, my wife Denise and I were horrified to learn that Denise wouldn’t be legally recognized as her parent nationwide unless she went through the long and expensive process of adopting her own child,” said Bridgeport resident Stephanie Ocasio-Gonzalez, who with her wife Denise is raising both their now-toddler daughter and a teenage son. “I lie awake at night worrying about what would happen to my family if, God forbid, something were to happen to me — Denise could lose both her wife and her children. Same-sex couples shouldn’t have to worry about death before we create new life.”
The CPA would modernize Connecticut’s parentage law by filling gaps in existing protections and ensuring access to legal parenthood for all children, including those with unmarried, same-sex, or non-biological parents, its supporters say. The CPA would extend the Acknowledgement of Parentage process to same-sex couples, a form already available to unmarried different-sex couples that allows a parent to establish a legal parent-child relationship at birth without court proceedings. The bill would also remove gender-specific language from the state’s parentage laws, and it would provide protections for children born to unmarried parents through assisted reproduction — in a state where assisted reproduction accounts for about four percent of all births.
“As Connecticut residents and Connecticut voters, we are proud to support the CPA,” said Cara Newlon ’21, a law student who has worked on the bill from its inception. “For those of us anticipating careers in LGBTQ justice and gender equality, working on this bill has been an incredible opportunity to legislate our own rights — and those of past and future clients — into existence. We call on Connecticut lawmakers to build on the state’s legacy as a leader in LGBTQ rights to protect all families, regardless of how they are formed.”
Rep. Jeff Currey (East Hartford, Manchester, South Windsor) introduced the legislation.
“For years, I’ve heard from residents about the nightmare of red tape and degrading obstacles that our current law presents to parents,” he said. “Our state’s law should reflect the reality of the lives of our state’s families—our children’s futures depend on it. The CPA will ensure that our state’s laws give LGBTQ parents and their children the dignity and security they deserve.”
Many impacted families and representatives, including submitted testimony at the hearing. The effort to pass the Connecticut Parentage Act is led by the WE CARE Coalition, a group of Connecticut families, legal advocates, and community organizations and spearheaded by NeJaime’s Yale Law School clinic along with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.
“Passing the Connecticut Parentage Act will protect vulnerable children and families and send a signal that Connecticut stands for equality and dignity for all under the law,” said Polly Crozier, Senior Staff Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and a principal drafter of the legislation. “The bill is a commonsense measure that has been enacted in many states and has the bipartisan support of legislators and state and national legal and medical experts. Connecticut’s families cannot wait any longer for equal access to parentage — we hope the Assembly will act quickly to protect LGBTQ parents and their children.”
The Connecticut Parentage Act is adapted from model legislation by the Uniform Law Commission, a nonpartisan body of state lawmakers, state judges, scholars, and lawyers that produces uniform laws on a wide range of state-law issues. The 2017 Uniform Parentage Act provides a model so that states meet their constitutional obligations to provide equal paths to parentage for nonmarital children and children of LGBTQ parents. Multiple states, including Maine, Washington, Vermont, California, and Rhode Island, have adopted similar legislation. In 2020, the CPA received strong bipartisan support in the Connecticut General Assembly, but the session was cut short due to COVID-19. NeJaime and a group of Yale Law School students have been working to pass the Connecticut Parentage Act CPA since 2019.
The CPA is supported by a broad range of experts and organizations, including child advocates, legal organizations, LGBTQ groups, and medical experts. Supporters include: the Center for Children’s Advocacy, Connecticut Voices for Children, the Connecticut ACLU, theConnecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, the Connecticut Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Chamber, the New Haven Pride Center, PFLAG Hartford, the Triangle Community Center, COLAGE, Family Equality, the Connecticut Bar Association, the Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, Resolve New England, Fertility Within Reach, New England Fertility Society, the Center for Advanced Reproductive Services, Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut, and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.