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Lesbians Given Equal Rights As Parents in U.K.

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Sep 1, 2009
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Lesbian families in the U.K. who conceive via fertility treatments may now see both mothers’ names on their child’s birth certificate.

A new law grants the same right to female couples regardless of whether they are in a civil partnership.

But the new law only applies to female couples who received treatments in England or Wales after April 5 of this year, reported the BBC News in an Aug. 31 article.

That means that a couple who received fertility treatments on April 6 or later can take advantage of the new measure, while those who had treatments earlier may not.

Opponents of gay and lesbian family equality resorted to standard rhetoric, decrying any family that does not consist of a man, a woman, and children, as not measuring up to the "ideal."

Said Nadine Dorries, a conservative Minister of Parliament, "If we want to build a stable society, a mother and father and children works as the best model," the BBC News item reported.

Added Dorries, "We should be striving towards repairing and reinforcing marriage.

"I think this move sends out the exact opposite message."

However, it was not suggested that single heterosexual parents be stripped of their parental status on that same basis.

The Christian Medical Fellowship’s Dr. Peter Saunders was quoted as warning that the new law would "create a legal fiction around the parentage of the children," a remark that echoed language used in the notorious Section 28,
a law approved in 1988 during the AIDS crisis, which had a chilling effect on teachers addressing social issues relating to GLBTs.

The law banned "promoting the teaching... of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship."

The passage of the law prompted the creation of Stonewall, the UK’s largest GLBT equality organization, which was co-founded by openly gay actor Sir Ian McKellen.

The leader of the U.K.’s conservative party the Tories, David Cameron, recently apologized for Section 28.

The law was in place until 2003.

But Tories were not the only ones attacking the new family-friendly measure; the BBC News reported that a Labour MP, Geraldine Smith, declared that, "To have a birth certificate with two mothers and no father is just madness."

The new measure follows on a development from earlier this summer in which a lesbian couple won the right for their fertilization treatments to be covered under the U.K.’s medical system.

Previously, lesbian families could be denied on the basis of a child’s "need for a father."

That development, too, was attacked by anti-gay pundits.

But the new parental rights for lesbian couples had many supporters as well, among them Home Office Minister Lord Brett, who, the BBC News reported, said, "This positive change means that, for the first time, female couples who have a child using fertility treatment have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts to be shown as parents in the birth registration."

Added Lord Brett, "It is vital that we afford equality wherever we can in society, especially as family circumstances continue to change. This is an important step forward in that process."

Ruth Hunt, who serves as Stonewall’s Head of Policy and Research, Ruth Hunt said that the new law was "fairer" to lesbian families, and that it made things "much easier" for such families.

"As the law improves to provide further equality, knowing your new rights will help people make full use of the services they’re entitled to," said Hunt.

"And, if discrimination occurs, the same knowledge can help them demand fair treatment.

"Now lesbian couples in the UK who make a considered decision to start a loving family will finally be afforded equal access to services they help fund as taxpayers."

But the change is really just enforcing existing law, according to a Sept. 1 article at The Raw Story that noted that lesbian families had been provided equal parental right in a law enacted last year, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act.

Male couples will have similar rights as of April 6, 2010, according to a Wikipedia article.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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