CA Governor Redefines Fatherhood

Gov Signed Bill 8/5/11

SAN FRANCISCO, Updated August 6, 2011-- AB 1349, a bill that is intended to redefine fatherhood for children born to unmarried mothers was signed into law by California Governor Edmund Brown, Jr on August 5. It undermines the entire notion of natural parenthood. It also undermines the rights of fathers and the internationally recognized right of every child to know and, as far as possible, be cared for by his or her biological mother and father.

AB 1349 is part of a package of legislation sponsored by Equality California, the group that opposed Proposition 8. It has recieved little publicity and has gone through the legislature without consideration of many serious consquences.

Background: Lesbian Seeks to
Deny Child Relationship with Father

This bill deals with the heart-wrenching and complex problems that arise for children who are deprived of their mothers and fathers united in marriage. The impact of the bill is no trivial matter as 41% of children are currently born to unmarried mothers nationally, a percentage that is no doubt higher in California.

When a child is born to an unmarried mother, biological fathers are currently encouraged to file a declaration of paternity, which the State Department of Child Support Services indicates helps children “gain the same rights and privileges of a child born within a marriage. Some of those rights include: financial support from both parents, access to important family medical records, access to the non-custodial parent's medical benefits, and the emotional benefit of knowing who both parents are.” (emphasis added)

AB 1349 is in direct conflict with the goods intended by voluntary paternity declarations. The legislature should carefully consider this and the other wide-ranging and unintended consequences of this bill.

  1. At a time when many are responding to the crisis and consequences created when fathers abandon their children by developing programs to encourage fathers to step forward to do the right thing, this bill would provide a mechanism for having their paternity put aside in favor of a person without the bond of kinship.
  2. This bill provides mothers with inordinate power for depriving a child of a relationship with his or her father by controlling access to the child and laying the groundwork for having a voluntary declaration of paternity set aside using the criteria included in the bill. It is wrong to give any one person so much power in a proceeding that is adjudicating the rights of both parents and the child.
  3. It is wrong for the legislature to create laws setting criteria for legal remedies that undermine the natural rights of a parent and child by limiting the courts’ discretion and ability to apply judgment after assessing history, motives, and agendas of the parties that may conflict with the interest of the child or the other parent.
  4. This bill is in conflict with Articles 7 and 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that every child has a right to know and stay in contact with his or her mother and father unless it is harmful for him or her to do so.
  5. Tragically, current California law permits the creation of a child with the express intent of depriving that child of the fundamental human right of knowing and being cared for by the child’s mother, father, or both. This bill attempts to build in more restrictions on the rights of the child in the case of sperm donors, and attempts, perhaps unwittingly, to obliterate the notion of intergenerational relationships among persons.

In addition to these objections, this bill violates something even more fundamental—the identity of a human person in relation to kinship and ancestry. Every person has a unique blood (genetic) relationship with the man and the woman from whom he or she originated. Associated with this are other blood relationships with current and past generations including brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. These are not trivial relationships. Connected to these are not only family, ethnic, and cultural heritages, but medical histories that are becoming increasingly important as predictors of disease and for healthcare protocols. Depriving a person of access to his or her identity is a very serious matter that is understood in current law, but would be obliterated by this bill.

People are not commodities and not interchangeable for purely utilitarian reasons or to suit the whims of one parent over the other. This callous bill is dehumanizing. It trivializes father-child relationships, extended family relationships, ancestry, and heritage. Intergenerational memory and traditions provide the roots of human culture. By undermining that in law, this bill conflicts with what is essential for the flourishing of the person and society.

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