Alex Blaze

Watch out for the group marriage menace!

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 16, 2007 1:55 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: child custody, lesbian mothers, marriage, Pennsylvania

Just in case you didn't have enough to worry about, Elizabeth Marquardt gives you one more: GROUP MARRIAGE!

Yes, as fewer and fewer people are getting married and are forming new living arrangements outside the bounds of Holy Matrimony, Marquardt is all up on the new trend that could descend on the American body politic without warning. Or without anyone noticing, considering the lead:

SOMETIMES when the earth shudders it doesn't make a sound. That's what happened in Harrisburg, Pa., recently.

On April 30, a state Superior Court panel ruled that a child can have three legal parents. The case, Jacob v. Shultz-Jacob, involved two lesbians who were the legal co-parents of two children conceived with sperm donated by a friend. The panel held that the sperm donor and both women were all liable for child support.

Well, let's be a little more accurate; the court found that the person Marquardt describes as the "sperm donor" had a significant relationship with the kids and had made no legal arrangement to be just a sperm donor (they practiced insemination outside of the auspices of a fertility clinic, if you catch my drift).

But that's neither here nor there. We're talking about recognizing the relationships outside of the boundaries of one-woman-one-man marriage, a form of privatization of relationships that ignores the many, many relationships that are important to many people, and so "the end is near" predictions are going to roll in. In fact, Marquardt answers the idea that people have been forming their own non-McFamily families for quite some time now:

Astonishingly, few legal experts, politicians or social commentators have considered the enormous risks these rulings and proposals pose for children. Those who have noticed tend to say they are nothing new, because many children already grow up with several parent figures. But this fails to recognize that stepchildren and adopted children still have only two legal parents.

So the difference is that the law doesn't get involved in the past cases of more complicated families, which is an interesting distinction to be making. It's almost as though she were implying that the only relationships that are legitimate are those that are recognized by the government....

Unless she's more concerned with visitation. She describes a study she did of families after amicable divorces:

We found that even these children must grow up traveling between two worlds, having to make sense on their own of the different values, beliefs and ways of living they find in each home. They have to grow up too soon. When a court assigns a child several parents, some of whom never intend to share a home, they consign that child, at best, to a "good" divorce situation.

Put the vague fear that a child will "have to grow up too soon" together with the fact that Marquardt could only name two cases in the legal history of North America where a child was assigned to more than two parents, and you have some pretty big threat construction going on there. She could have maybe described the pitfalls of "growing up too fast", but that would probably too much to ask for and would ultimately distract from this:

If more children are granted three legal parents, what is our rationale for denying these families the rights and protections of marriage? America, get ready for the group-marriage debate.[...]

If we allow three legal parents, why not five?

Fortunate children have many people who love them as much as their parents do. But in the best interests of children, no court should break open the rule of two when assigning legal parenthood.

AHHHHHHH!!!! The terror of mass marriages! It'll make the silliness of the state only recognizing straight marriage readily apparent in ways that same-sex marriage will never, that's for sure, but isn't it a bit early to go off responding to families that the government is nowhere near a place to recognize right now?

This case had a lot less to do with polygamy or group marriages or whatever Marquardt is fantasizing about and more to do with a lesbian couple who split up leaving one of the women with four children to raise on her own with two other parents out of the picture (the "sperm-donor" died during the court battle). But whenever the idea that a child's possibilities, health, and fate should be tied to two specific people's finances from the previous generation is challenged, we're going to hear from people who think the earth is shuddering. Even if that challenge is one appellate case in Pennsylvania.


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I'm having a little trouble following this one.

In Indiana the biological father (sperm donor)is required to sign a legal document that relinquishes all his legal rights to the child. This is required by the court for the adoption to proceed. Through the adoption process the second-parent acquires those legal rights.

In this particular case it does not say that the children conceived with the help of the sperm donor were adopted by the second-parent. He therefore did not relinquish his parental rights and was held liable for child support. Because Pennsylvania does not have a Uniform Parentage Act he was not protected as a sperm donor either.

The interesting thing is that the court still recognized the lesbian parent as a "parent" by virtue of the relationship she had with the birth mother and children.

From what I've read about this case, donna, it sounds like a lesbian couple wanted two kids after they already had two from one of the women's previous relationships. They found a guy who was their friend and instead of going down to the clinic one of them (the one with the previous two kids) hopped in the sack with him under the understanding that she and her female partner would raise the resulting children. The dude, though, supported the kids with money and things and his time and had a good relationship with them until he died, even though he was against any form of forced child support.

That's why I think that the columnist went a little overboard here - it's not as though this was an anonymous sperm donor, and her repeated use of the term implies that the court was making a relationship with the kids out of nothing.

That's how I interpreted it as well.

The rhetoric that Marquardt spews to get the fundies in a tizzy is:

"On April 30, a state Superior Court panel ruled that a child can have three legal parents. The case, Jacob v. Shultz-Jacob, involved two lesbians who were the legal co-parents of two children conceived with sperm donated by a friend."

First of all the "lesbians" were not "legal co-parents" because a legal adoption did not occur. So her line about a child having "three legal parents" is bogus. She's a moron just trying to stir up the fundies.