(Re)Forming Parenthood: The Assignment of Legal Parentage within Planned Lesbian Families
40 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2016
Date Written: 2009
Planned lesbian families - defined here as families in which a single lesbian woman or a lesbian couple decide to have a child using some form of assisted conception - are greater in number and more visible today than ever before, yet only a single Canadian province has attempted to address through legislation the assignment of legal parentage within them. The absence of legislation in this area is of great concern to lesbian mothers and their children who, unable to fall back on legislative presumptions or those derived from biology, live with considerable legal uncertainty. Given the unique legal and social issues raised by lesbian families, the enduring homophobia that continues to characterize their experience of family, and the lack of Canadian research in the field, planned lesbian families warrant specific empirical attention. This article tackles the question of how legal parentage might be assigned within planned lesbian families drawing on empirical data collected through 36 interviews with 49 lesbian mothers living in British Columbia and Alberta. It addresses how lesbian mothers understand and define parenthood within their own families, and how their understandings and definitions might be translated into a law reform context. It concludes by offering a law reform proposal grounded in intentionality, one that presumptively protects the lesbian nuclear family and allows for the possibility of three or four-parent families in instances where the presumptive parents have agreed to such an arrangement.
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