Virginia laws do not permit or recognize gay marriage. Consequently, the state also bans second-parent adoptions – a way for both gay parents to secure parental rights. Without adoption, same-sex parents may be left on the sidelines with no legal connection to children they love and who love them.
Parental rights give an individual decision-making power in the way a child is raised. Without those rights, a parent could lose a custody dispute and have no say in a child’s education, religious upbringing or medical care. A lack of parental rights also deprives a child of government benefits and inheritance in the event of a parent’s death.
A Midlothian couple recently celebrated the birth of twin girls. The lesbians chose not to have the birth take place in Virginia, where their marriage and the spouses’ parental rights could be questioned. Instead, the new parents opted to have the Cesarean delivery in the District of Columbia, where second-parent adoptions for same-sex couples are legal.
The twins have a connection to both mothers. The fertilized eggs of one woman were implanted in the other, but only the mother who gave birth had parental rights. A D.C. adoption ensures both spouses enjoy the same legal standing.
The District recently abandoned an adoption residency requirement for lesbian couples. Since 2009, gay couples have been granted parental rights in D.C., with birth certificates naming both parents. However, a Virginia court could refuse to recognize the rights of both parents without adoption.
The couple’s preparation and effort for the twins’ May delivery wasn’t easy, although it helped that the birth was a C-section and could be planned. The mothers required doctors and attorneys in Midlothian and the District. Adoption fees are being added to the considerable expense.
Virginia permits individuals and heterosexual spouses to adopt. A family law attorney can advise gay couples about options to secure parental rights.
Source: The Washington Post, “D.C. adoption law draws lesbians from Va., other states to give birth here” Carol Morello, May. 22, 2014