Canadian province says child can have 2 mums
Reuters, USA, By Leah Schnurr, January 3, 2007
A five-year-old Canadian boy can have two mothers and a father, an Ontario court ruled this week in a landmark case that redefines the meaning of family and examines the rights of parents in same-sex relationships.
In a ruling released on Tuesday, the Ontario Court of Appeal said the female partner of the child's biological mother could be legally recognised as the boy's third parent.
The biological father, named on the boy's birth certificate, is a friend of both women and is taking an active role in the child's life.
"It is contrary to (the child's) best interests that he is deprived of the legal recognition of the parentage of one of his mothers," Justice Marc Rosenberg wrote in the ruling, which did not name the three parents or the child.
"Perhaps one of the greatest fears faced by lesbian mothers is the death of the birth mother... Without a declaration of parentage or some other order, the surviving partner would be unable to make decisions for their minor child."
The two women, who have been together since 1990, told the court they did not want to adopt the child because it meant the father would lose his status as a parent.
"It's an important precedent because the legislature has not kept the legislation up to date," said Peter Jervis, one of the lawyers for the applicant, referred to only as "A.A."
"The court has basically said that it would step in to recognise this woman as the mother of her child ... and would treat her equally," said Jervis.
He added that the court found the family to be a very loving one and that A.A. had met all the criteria of being a loving mother.
"She read the bedtime stories, put the Band-Aids on his fingers, cleaned his runny nose, had taken him off to school," said Jervis.
The Alliance for Marriage and Family, a coalition of several groups that promote a traditional family structure, had filed as an intervenor in the case.
"We think there are many good reasons for continuing to uphold the definition of family as two parents," said Joanne McGarry, executive director of the Catholic Civil Rights League, one of the groups represented by the alliance.
"Once you remove it from the realm of nature and the realm of traditional moral and religious teachings, who's going to decide how many parents a child can have? What's so magical about three, maybe there could be Read More ..quot;
McGarry said the Alliance had not decided if it would appeal the decision.
The Institute for Canadian Values, which opposes a 2005 law allowing same-sex marriage in Canada, dismissed the ruling as an act of "naked judicial activism".
"The court saw this case as an opportunity to entrench so-called alternative family structures in law without submitting the idea to the rigours of the legislative process," Executive Director Joseph Ben-Ami said in a statement.
However, Laurel Rothman, Director of Social Reform at the Family Services Association of Toronto, which worked with the applicant's legal counsel during the case, applauded the decision.
"The situation basically recognises the changing face of families in Canada in the beginning of the twenty-first century," said Rothman.
"The law is catching up to the reality of families in modern-day Ontario."
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Ontario since 2003, and across Canada since 2005.
The latest judgement overturned a 2003 ruling by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in which the judge found that he did not have jurisdiction to declare the woman a mother.
Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.