RI State Lawmakers Pass Bill Easing Access to Legal Rights for Same-Sex Parents

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday July 17, 2020

Rhode Island state lawmakers passed a long-in-the-making bill that would provide legal parental rights for both partners in a same-sex couple or for parents who resort to assisted reproductive techniques, reports local newspaper the Providence Journal.

State Rep. Carol McEntee, who worked to pass the bill for three years, was quoted by the Journal as saying, "This is a big day for Rhode Island. A big day for families. A big day for kids.

"This act is for all families," McEntee said.

Noted State Sen. Erin Lynch Prata, who sponsored the bill int hat chamber: "This allows families to become families without having to go to court."

Both lawmakers are Democrats, the article said. The bill passed both the Rhode Island House and Senate with only one vote against in each chamber. Republican state lawmaker Justin Price objected in the House.

"The bill gives the following paths to legal parentage in Rhode Island: birth, adoption, acknowledgment, adjudication, genetics, assisted reproduction, surrogacy, de facto parentage, and presumptions," summarizes local news station WPRI.

Advocacy group Rhode Islanders for Parentage Equality (RIPE) celebrated the bill's passage, issuing a statement that declared, "The bill updates the state's 40-year-old law to ensure all Rhode Island children have equal access to the security of legal parentage."

One parent whose rights will benefit from the bill offered her personal insight into why the bill is important.

"When my partner Anna and I welcomed our son Eli in 2016, I was a legal stranger to him because our laws didn't address the parentage of a child born to unmarried same-gender parents or conceived through fertility treatments," Sara Watson recounted, disclosing that it took eight months for her adoption of the infant to become legal.

In the meantime, "I couldn't make legal decisions for Eli. I couldn't add him on my insurance. I couldn't pick him up from daycare. Rhode Island's outdated law might even have denied me custody of Eli if something had happened to Anna before the adoption was finalized."

Wendy Becker, an organizer with RIPE, said, "The parents advocating for this bill have shown up again and again to tell painful stories about the fears and consequences of not having a clear legal relationship to their children.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has made their concerns even more urgent."

The office of Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo "indicated Thursday night that she plans to sign it," the Journal reports.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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