Updated: Mar 22, 2021
by Steve Ahlquist of Uprise RI
Governor Gina Raimondo signed the Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act (2020-H 7541Aaa, 2020-S 2136Baa) into law at a ceremony on the south lawn of the State House on Tuesday afternoon. The legislation updates the state’s 40-year-old parenting laws to ensure all Rhode Island children have equal access to the security of legal parentage.
The law takes effect January 1, 2021.
The legislation fills critical gaps in the state’s parentage law, particularly for LGBTQ parents and their children. The legislation allows LGBTQ couples access to establishing parentage through a simple civil Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage, reducing the need for a burdensome, expensive and lengthy co-parent adoption process. It also creates, for the first time in Rhode Island, an accessible path to parentage for children born through assisted reproduction, as well as protections for children born through surrogacy.
The new law will provide for the following paths to legal parentage in Rhode Island: birth, adoption, acknowledgement, adjudication, genetics, assisted reproduction, surrogacy, de facto parentage and presumptions. It also provides clear standards for the Family Court to apply in order to establish parentage.
The legislation was championed by Rhode Islanders for Parentage Equality (RIPE), a coalition of parents, families, community members, and organizations advocating for the legal security of all children and families in Rhode Island and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. It took three years to get the legislation through the General Assembly. Each year parents would come to the State House to testify in favor of the bill, telling personal and heart wrenching stories to the Judiciary committees of both the House and Senate. This year the bills passed both the Senate and the House allowing Governor Raimondo to sign a bill she has long supported. “The parents advocating for this bill have shown up again and again to tell painful stories about the fears and consequences of not having a clear legal relationship to their children. The COVID-19 pandemic has made their concerns even more urgent. We thank the members of the House and Senate, including all of the bill’s sponsors, for recognizing that what’s best for Rhode Island and best for families is to ensure that all parents have the ability to protect their children through a secure legal relationship as soon after birth as possible,” said Wendy Becker, advocate and organizer with Rhode Islanders for Parentage Equality and LGBTQ Action RI.
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade. email@example.com