How many parents make a family?
Here’s an interesting thing a friend pointed me to, California Senate Bill 1476. The short of it is that this bill would allow for a child to have more than two legally recognized parents.
Here’s a link to a summarized text of the bill, where you can also find a link to the latest version of the complete bill.
The implications of this are pretty interesting. At first I was thinking of things like “who can make medical decisions if a kid’s legal parents are married, but not to each other?”, but on reflection I kinda figure that has to be already addressed somewhere, or maybe the non-parents can act as a legal proxy for their spouses. Reading the bill and the article linked above it looks like it’s mostly intended to allow judges more leeway in cases where parenthood is being contested. So, a judge could give parental rights & responsibilities to spouses without stripping any away from biological parents, for example.
It sounds like a good idea to me. So naturally, people are opposing it on religious terms.From the Sacramento Bee article linked above:
Benjamin Lopez, legislative analyst for the Traditional Values Coalition, blasted Leno’s bill as a new attempt to “revamp, redefine and muddy the waters” of family structure by a leader in the drive to legalize gay marriage.
“It comes as no surprise that he would try to say that a child has more than two parents – that’s absurd,” said Lopez, whose group calls itself a leading voice for Bible-based values.
See I’m beginning to think the problem here is that some people expect the government to tell everyone how to live. “Family structure” sounds like some homogeneous thing where everyone has their little role to play or slot to fill, and this is stated as though passing this bill would change those roles and require everyone to adjust their lives to fit. Not only is the conclusion bunk, but the assumptions clearly don’t line up with reality.
Look, I’m not a lawyer, and legalese has a nasty habit of obfuscating rather than clarifying unless you’ve studied it, so I might be missing something in the bill. But based on what people are saying, whether for it, against it, or just neutrally describing it, I can’t see how this does anything but make it easier for some people to live in the way that works for them.
It’s not demanding that anyone change their families or even suggesting that , but rather it’s giving judges another option in their rulings, specifically for the best interests of children. It makes it easier for people to live the lives they’re already living. Surely in a free society that’s exactly the sort of thing new laws should do.
This law is clearly aimed at making family breakups less hard on kids by giving judges more flexibility. The language throughout refers to the “best interest of the child” and it seems pretty clear that it does not require anything of judges, but simply gives them authority to declare people involved to be legal parents if that would help things.
The only criticism that really seems valid to me is that it will have unintended consequences in terms of tax law, probate, and the other things listed in that SacBee article. Those are genuine concerns, but they don’t seem sufficient to really oppose the idea, just to be careful in its implementation.
Reading the words of the Traditional Values Coalition’s analyst and the comments on that second link (the SacBee’s comments are closed due to hate speech) it’s not entirely clear to me what the basis of their opposition to this is. Sometimes it feels like the more socially conservative groups are most upset that the law isn’t forcing everybody to be just like them.
Incidentally, I’ll probably be writing more about the TVC, based on what I saw at their homepage. It didn’t surprise me at all to find them on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate map.