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California Bill Would Allow Children More Than 2 Parents

SB 1476, a bill working its way through the California Legislature, would remove the limit of two legal parents per child. Similar legislation exists in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maine, and the District of Columbia.

Children in California may legally be able to have more than two parents, should a bill working its way through the California Legislature pass. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Mark Leno, intends the bill to provide legal standing to the modern American family.

The bill’s inspiration came from a case in which a girl with two mothers -- one in prison and one hospitalized -- ended up in state custody after a judge ruled that her biological father couldn't be her legal guardian because she already had two parents, according to MSNBC. Supporters of the bill argued that in such cases, having more than one parent could help keep children out of foster care.

The Legislature also pointed to possibilities such as if a woman meets her spouse while pregnant but the biological father still wishes to be involved in the child’s life, or if two lesbians use a sperm donor who wishes to be involved.

Critics have demonized the bill as an attempt to destroy the traditional family. “He's trying to change the whole attitudes and understanding of what family is,” California Right to Life Committee Director Camille Giglio told CBS news. “Family is a father and a mother and children.”

Supporters countered that the modern family has evolved, and this bill simply responds to that. “The bill brings California into the 21st century, recognizing that there are more than Ozzie and Harriet families today,” Leno told the Sacramento Bee. According to the 2010 census, married couples now represent less than half of all households.

The bill doesn't set a maximum number of parents a child could have, leading to concerns that children could have an unlimited number of parents. But since the bill doesn't change the definition of parentage, Leno called the possibility of a child having five or six parents “laughable,” according to MSNBC.

California is not the first state to consider such a measure. Pennsylvania, Maine, Delaware and the District of Columbia already recognize more than two parents, according to MSNBC.

The bill, SB 1476, has already passed California’s Senate and the Assembly Appropriations Committee began considerations July 9.

Tina Trenkner is the Deputy Editor for GOVERNING.com. She edits the Technology and Health newsletters.
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