The Limits of Functional Family: Lesbian Mother Litigation in the Era of the Eternal Biological Family

35 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2008  

Jenni Millbank

University of Technology, Sydney, Faculty of Law

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 9, 2008

Abstract

This article contends that the 'functional family' model falters in the context of lesbian and gay intra-family disputes. Functional family arguments have frequently been misused in disputes between separated lesbian mothers who are contesting issues around children and in disputes between lesbian mothers and known sperm donors/biological fathers. I argue that the rise of fathers' rights movements and increasing emphasis on biological family gives both discursive and legal authority to essentialised, gendered and symbolic status claims made by biological parents, valorising distant biological fathers over mother-led family units, and separated biological mothers over non-biological mothers.

Finding that the functional family approach cannot usefully resist the current ideological climate, the article concludes with an exploration of an alternative: framing a form of status claim for lesbian co-parents based on intentionality.

Keywords: functional family, lesbian mothers, same-sex parents, biological family, fathers' rights, non-biological parents

JEL Classification: k19, k39

Suggested Citation

Millbank, Jenni, The Limits of Functional Family: Lesbian Mother Litigation in the Era of the Eternal Biological Family (June 9, 2008). International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1157666 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1157666

Jenni Millbank (Contact Author)

University of Technology, Sydney, Faculty of Law ( email )

Australia

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