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Can a Child Have More Than Two Parents? California says “Yes”

Earlier this month, California governor Jerry Brown signed into law a piece of legislation that allows children to have more than two legal parents. Since that time, there has been some legal wrangling over what the practical application of the law will be and whether similar laws will be passed in other states.

The law in California came as a response to a legal case where one partner in a lesbian relationship had been impregnated by a man. Sometime after the birth of the girl, the couple got into a domestic dispute, and one of them landed in jail while the other was in the hospital. The girl ended up in foster care. Since her biological father had terminated parental rights so that the non-biological mother in the couple could legally adopt the girl, the daughter was not placed in his care—despite the fact that he was still actively involved in her life. In order to rectify this situation and others like it, California has now passed a law that legally recognizes more than two parents for custodial purposes.

This is one of the unintended consequences of the legalization of same-sex marriage. Since revisionist marriage definitions no longer make a connection to biology, gender, and procreation, children have been placed in the awkward circumstance of not knowing who their parents are. Are their biological parents really their parents? What about the non-biological-parent same-sex partner of their mom or dad?

Are their biological parents really their parents? What about the non-biological-parent same-sex partner of their mom or dad?

Those who supported the law claim that it protects the best interest of the child. However, it is difficult to say that such a worthy goal is the actual outcome of the law for at least a couple of reasons.

  1. This law will most likely add confusion to the mind of the child when she attempts to identify her parents. In situations like the one that inspired the law, the child was given the impression that she had two mothers and one father. Even though she did not live with her father, he was actively a part of her life. Imagine the confusion in her mind over why her father did not live in her house. Did he not love her enough to live with her? Did her mother not love her father? This situation is ripe for confusion on the part of a child.
  2. What happens when one biological parent has different hopes or aspirations for the child than her other biological parent and non-biological-parent same-sex partner? Who is given preference when that occurs? In a traditional marital relationship, the father and mother (i.e., husband and wife) work together to iron out their own differences over the goals they have for their children. In this situation, the non-resident biological parent is most likely the one left with a diminished voice in childrearing. Is this really in the best interest of the child when research proves that children fare better when reared in the married home of their biological parents?

Even though our culture was assured by proponents of same-sex marriage that it would not change the fabric of marriage and family, such assurances were empty and false. In fact legal professionals fully expect similar laws to be passed in states that have legalized same-sex marriage.

With the legalization of same-sex marriage in fourteen states, the change not only to marriage but also to the institution of the family is already well underway. However, this should not discourage us from standing for God’s design for marriage and family. As it relates to this law in particular, we should stand for God’s design for the sake of the children.


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Evan Lenow

Assistant Professor of Ethics, Bobby L. and Janis Eklund Chair of Stewardship, Director of the Center for Biblical Stewardship, Acting Director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement, and Chair of the Ethics Department

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