California Lawmakers Consider Expanding Gay Parents' Rights

By Mitch Kellaway

Originally published on Advocate.com August 05 2014 4:15 PM ET

In the fall California will consider updating laws regarding parental rights by taking into account that many families are not headed by a married,heterosexual couple, reports the Associated Press.

The changes being considered — including those relating to the rights of parents whose children were conceived by in vitro fertilization — are poised to address family law issues for the 21st century.

Interest in revisiting the definition of "family" has been sparked in part by a high-profile case argued by family lawyer and gay father Fred Silberberg. For over a year, one of his clients, actor Jason Patric, has been embroiled in an acrimonious custody battle with his ex-girlfriend Danielle Schreiber, notes Rolling Stone. Their 4-year-old son, Gus, was conceived via in vitro fertilization; when they split, Schreiber became his sole guardian.

Patric, who is not listed on the birth certificate, claims he has shown interest in co-parenting and has a right to see his biological son; Schreiber, on the other hand, claimed that Patric was simply a sperm donor, expressing no interest in fatherhood until now.

While the couple's lack of marriage and a co-parenting agreement led a trial court to initially dismiss Patric's case, in May a California Court of Appeals overturned the decision. Last week the California Supreme Court denied a review of this decision.

According to Silberberg's publicist, this decision has promising ramifications for same-sex couples who conceive via in vitro fertilization. Silberberg has been an advocate for fathers' rights since his own custody battle over his children, who were at one time kept from him because he is gay.

"There are multiple paths to becoming a father and the law is now able to recognize that, even in the case of someone who used IVF out of wedlock," he explained recently to CNN.

Silberberg's hopes to clarify this law where California's same-sex couples are concerned may be fulfilled soon. California assemblyman Tom Ammiano is currently working to update laws in ways that will help "nontraditional" families gain social acceptance, reports the AP.

The California Senate is currently considering Ammiano's "Modern Family" Act, AB2344, which would expedite adoptions for nonbiological parents, such as a same-sex partner of a birth parent. It has already passed the Assembly.

The bill would also clarify the financial and legal responsibilities of surrogate mothers and sperm donors, helping to resolve disputes concerning both same-sex couples and the many heterosexual couples, including Patric and Schreiber, who are affected by outdated family laws.