Fighting to Modernize RI’s Outdated Parentage Laws
by Amanda Johnston, Director of Public Affairs and Education
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
All children and parents need and deserve security and legal protections. But
Rhode Island’s family laws have not kept up with the many ways contemporary families
are formed – in fact, they have not been updated since the 1970s.
The Rhode Island legislature has a chance to change that, with two bills that
will modernize the state’s parentage and co-parent adoption laws.
The Rhode Island Parentage Act
(H5707/S0789), sponsored by Rep. Carol McEntee and Sen. Erin Lynch Prata,
establishes clear paths to parentage in Rhode Island, including for children born
through assisted reproductive technology and surrogacy. The bill is based on the 2017
Uniform Parentage Act (UPA), a model, non-partisan, uniform law that advises
all states to ensure that their parentage statutes apply equally to LGBTQ families,
among other suggested updates.
The Rhode Island Confirmatory Adoption Act (H5706/S0497), sponsored
by Rep. Carol McEntee and Sen. Gayle L. Goldin, streamlines and provides greater
clarity and consistency in the process for co-parent adoptions by people, particularly LGBTQ couples, who seek to confirm parentage, through adoption, of their
own children conceived through assisted reproduction.
H5707/S0789 and H5706/S0497 have had two emotional and well-attended
public hearings in the House and the Senate, in which parents shared heart-
wrenching stories about how current holes in Rhode Island law have a devastating
impact on their children and families, and advocates and family law attorneys testified
about the urgent need for these bills.
“Having a secure, legal connection to their parents as soon after birth as possible
is critical to children’s financial security and emotional well-being,” says Polly
Crozier, Senior Staff Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
“Among many critical gaps, Rhode Island is the only state in New England lacking
any protections for children born through assisted reproductive technology and for children born through surrogacy, leaving children vulnerable. Existing law also places
unnecessary, costly, and often humiliating burdens, including invasive home studies,
on parents who are adopting their own.
In addition to parents, families, and community members, these bills are
supported by experts and advocates including LGBTQ Action Rhode Island,
GLAD, Resolve NE, the Rhode Island Department of Human Services/Office
of Child Support Services, the ACLU of RI, Transnet, Fertility Within Reach,
Thundermist, long-standing family law practitioner Lise Iwon, and surrogacy law
practitioner Mike Grant.
For more information, legislative updates, an additional list of supporters, and
fact sheets on The Rhode Island Parentage Act, and The Rhode Island Confirmatory
Adoption Act, visit www.glad.org/ri-family.
Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal
Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) works in New England and nationally to create a just
society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. For more info, visit www.glad.org.