SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed legislation that will allow a child in California to have more than two legal parents, a measure opposed by some conservative groups as an attack on the traditional family.
Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) wrote the measure to address the changes in the family structure in California, including situations in which same-sex couples have a child with an opposite-sex biological parent.
His bill would allow the courts to recognize three or more legal parents so that custody and financial responsibility can be shared by all those involved in raising a child.
“The structure of today’s families is evolving, and courts need the ability to recognize these changes so children are supported by the adults that play a central role in loving and caring for them,” Leno said. “It is critical that judges have the ability to recognize the roles of all parents so that no child has to endure separation from one of the adults he or she has always known as a parent.”
The bill is partially in reaction to a 2011 court decision involving a lesbian couple that ended their relationship. One of the women was impregnated by a man before the couple resumed their relationship. When a fight broke out, one of the women was hospitalized and the other put in jail, but the daughter was sent to foster care because her biological father did not have parental rights.
"Everyone who places the interests of children first and realizes that judges shouldn't be forced to rule in ways that hurt children should cheer this bill becoming law,” said Ed Howard, senior counsel for the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law.
SB 274 was opposed by advocates for traditional families, including Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, who said Friday that he was disappointed by the governor’s action.
“This is in the long run going to be a mistake,” Dacus said. “The ones who are going to pay the price are not the activists but its going to be children, who will see greater conflict and indecision over matters involving their well-being.”
Dacus said having more than two legal parents will create the potential for greater conflict over what is best for a child and will result in more complicated court fights
The measure was opposed in the Legislature by the conservative Capitol Resource Institute as detrimental to children, who the group said thrive in homes with their biological mother and father, or with adoptive parents being male and female role models.
Brown vetoed a similar bill last year, and his representatives did not return calls for comment on why he changed his mind.
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